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Slovakia vs Paraguay – with Italy next, Slovaks need urgent points

| 19.06.2010

The Paraguayans are evens favourites to win, Slovakia are 3/1, and they kick off at 12.30 in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

Slovakia come into the game still kicking themselves for allowing New Zealand to equalise in the last minute of their first game. Paraguay, on the other hand, will be feeling quite accomplished after holding the Italians to a draw.

Slovakia’s first task will be to lift their mood. Handing 93rd minute equalisers to the weakest team in the tournament is not conventionally recognised as a confidence-builder.

“We needed the three points,” said Slovakian goalkeeper Jan Mucha. “We’ve got just one, but it feels like none.”

Defence is not exactly the Slovaks’ strong point, however, in spite of the presence of Liverpool centre back Martin Skrtel. In qualifying they only managed three clean sheets, and even San Marino managed to squeeze one past them.

Slovakia are 12/5 to keep a clean sheet, while Paraguay are 4/6 to score the first goal.

However, the Slovakians are not without talent in their ranks. Bochum’s Stanislav Sestak, Napoli star Marek Hamsik and emerging Manchester City talent Vladimir Weiss form a nucleus that slightly belies Slovakia’s outsider status, and Sestak is the top price Slovak to score at 7/1.

The Slovaks also know that if they don’t emerge from this game with points, they might as well start packing for home, as Italy await in the final group game. They are 7/1 to win 1-0, 14-1 to win 2-0 and 12/1 to win 2-1.

The Paraguayans, in comparison, may be over-confident, as while they qualified third in South America behind Brazil and Argentina, their draw against Italy was also due in part to the Italians’ sluggishness.

Their performances in qualifying away from Asuncion were also somewhat so-so, where minnows Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia all scored against them, and sick man of South American football – Peru – held them to a scoreless draw.

Think Slovakia could also hold Paraguay to 0-0? It is available at 6/1.



Ed Needham