Juan Car­los Os­o­rio

Colom­bian takes on Paraguay chal­lenge

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“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.

stand­out...Miguel alm­iron gets away from ar­gentina’s ser­gio aguero

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