Football: Paraguay coach's red-herring tactics

PARAGUAY HAD expected home advantage would help them present a convincing challenge for a third Copa America title. Instead they were jeered off the field by a 40,000 crowd after their goalless stalemate against Bolivia in Asuncion. And while the hosts where floundering, the surprise guests from Asia, Japan, were giving Peru an early fright before they capitulated 3-2 on Tuesday.

The root of the Paraguayans' lacklustre opening display may yet be blamed on the fish-only diet forced on the players by Ever Almeida.

The national coach certainly did little to enhance his standing when he took off Nelson Cuevas and Hugo Ovelar, two of his most creative players, at half-time. He further angered the crowd when he replaced the 17-year- old striker Roque Santa Cruz, the great hope of Paraguayan football, midway through the second half.

"We did everything well until we got to the last 20 metres of the field," said Almeida, whose team's next game is against Japan tomorrow.

Earlier, Peru had kicked off the competition with a far more competitive game against Japan, themselves no strangers to a seafood diet, who have been invited to take part by the South American Football Confederation.

The Asians scored the first goal of the tournament when the Brazilian- born striker Wagner Lopes headed in at the near post following a free- kick in the seventh minute. They held out against Peruvian dominance until the 71st minute when Jorge Soto scored from a narrow angle.

Three more goals followed in the next 11 minutes. Roberto Holsen put the skilful Peruvians in front, Atsuhira Miura equalised from a free-kick and Holsen then scored the winner, finishing off an excellent move involving Nolberto Solano, of Newcastle United, and Flavio Maestri.

The tournament continued late last night with the Group B games between the champions, Brazil, and Venezuela, preceded by the meeting of Mexico and Chile.