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Paraguay vs Japan – Battle of surprise packages to go all the way

| 28.06.2010

On paper this match is the weakest of all the last-16 ties but Paraguay and Japan have produced some of the team performances – and goals – of the tournament, and both found qualification surprisingly straightforward.

The South Americans, ranked 31st in the world, are favourites to win the bout in 90 minutes at Evens, while Asia’s last hope at this World Cup are 11/4 outsiders to do the same.

At 45th in the world, Japan are the lowest ranked side left in the competition, but a draw after 90 minutes should not be discounted. It’s 9/4 in the match which kicks off in Pretoria at 3pm.

This match is the only one at this stage where the runner-up team collected more points than their first-place opponents, with Japan outscoring Paraguay by six to five.

In Keisuke Honda, they possess an accomplished forward who, against Cameroon, managed to follow through his pre-free-kick Cristiano Ronaldo impression with a 35-yard strike to match. His two goals so far have both openers and he is 7/1 to score first here.

Paraguay emanated professionalism in their group stage progression, and in Roque Santa Cruz (13/2 to score first), Oscar Cardoza (6/1), Lucas Barrios (6/1) and Nelson Valdez (8/1) have a strong and in-depth forward line.

Those four are likely to prove a tough challenge for Japan’s stingy defence meaning Paraguay to score at least once looks a good bet at 4/11.

Gerardo Martino’s team drew two of their group games, though, including their last one 0-0 against New Zealand, and despite the odds suggesting otherwise another all-square after 90 minutes looks probable.

It is 5/1 for it to be 1-1 come the final whistle and it may also be worth taking up the 4/9 price on there to be fewer than 2.5 goals – that was the case in all bar one of these sides’ six matches.

In fact, such is the evenness between the teams it could go all the way to penalties. There has been a single shoot-out at the round-of-16 stage in every World Cup since 1990 and this encounter could be the one to go to spot kicks this time.

And who would bet against Japan’s well-known set-piece ability transferring to 12 yards? The Asian team have won two out of three shoot-outs contested, while the South Americans have lost both of theirs. Japan to win on penalties is 10/1.

How do you see this underdogs bout going? Paraguay are 7/1 to repeat the 2-0 scoreline of their only win so far. See the full Paraguay v Japan match betting market.



John Klee