Juan Carlos Osorio
Colombian takes on Paraguay challenge
“There is a group of players under 25 who are good in the present with the promise of getting better in the future. If we complete the process [and qualify for Qatar 2022] they will meet the challenge around the age of 28”
S ome might see it as a step down to leave Mexico in order to take charge of Paraguay, but Juan Carlos Osorio does not agree. True, he might have been waiting for a vacancy with his native Colombia, only to grow impatient at the indecision surrounding Jose Pekerman, who left the job in August. But the fact remains that the coach who engineered Germany’s shock first-roung defeat at this summer’s World Cup is now the man behind Paraguay’s challenge to make it to Qatar.
Trading in a nation with a population in excess of 127 million for a relatively poor one with more than 120 million fewer people is a bold move – but not an incomprehensible one.
There is one obvious attraction – and it is that Paraguay is a place where Osorio could really make a difference.
Although they failed to make it to the last two World Cups, Paraguay’s potential is clear. Where Mexico constantly fret over their quest for the “fifth game”, Paraguay reached that landmark in 2010 when they made their debut in the World Cup quarter-finals – and probably gave Spain the toughest knockout match in any of their three consecutive tournament wins.
There is also an easily identifiable fit between Osorio’s thinking and the historic identity of the Paraguayan game. As well as the legendary fighting spirit of the Paraguayans, who so often seem capable of forming teams which are greater than the sum of their parts, there
is a style of play that is less dependent on traditional South American midfield elaboration, with more emphasis on hard running and aerial strength.
In his opening press conference Osorio said: “[Paraguay] have been successful with direct football, and adding a couple of things to this we could have good results. I worked at Manchester City, and getting to know English football helped me understand that direct football has a number of advantages. So I haven’t come to change this.”
He has also done his homework, adding: “Before accepting the proposal from the Paraguayan FA we analysed the resources, the talent available, and we saw that there is a group of players under 25 who are good in the present with the promise of getting better in the future.
“If we complete the process [and qualify for Qatar 2022] they will meet the challenge around the age of 28.
“Our analysis also concluded that there are very good players in the key positions. We have a defender with the quality of Junior Alonso, who is leftfooted and can play at centre-back or full-back. We have Derlis Gonzalez and Cecilio Dominguez to play as wingers.”
Rapid transitions to wide attackers are a key part of the Osorio method and were instrumental in Mexico’s World Cup victory over Germany. With this in mind he said one reason why he took the job was the chance to work with attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron, who is full of pace, has a wonderful left foot and looks like being the standout name in Paraguay’s future.
Paraguay have no competitive games until June’s Copa America but their mix of traditional virtues with the lively mind of Juan Carlos Osorio will make them one of the South American national teams to watch when they return to action against Argentina in November.
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