Vera strike lights up Paraguay

Slovakia 0 Paraguay 2
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The Independent Football

Paraguay overcame goal-shy Slovakia 2-0 thanks to two moments of real quality in Group F in Bloemfontein yesterday to move towards the World Cup second round. Well-taken goals from Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros were too much for a toothless Slovakia side.

"We were good in defence, we did well in attack. It was a great match. We scored and we feel close to the round of 16," Vera said. The Paraguay coach, Gerardo Martino, added: "I think these results have strengthened us mentally, spiritually, not just as football players, especially in our attitude. We are getting closer to our objectives to make it to the final rounds."

Martino's opposite number, Vladimir Weiss, said: "We made two mistakes. It was a high quality opponent and their victory was deserved. We lost the match because we were not bold upfield. Paraguay didn't play as good as they can and still we lost."

Weiss had predicted a fast-paced match with Martino also bracing his side for some swift Slovak counter-attacks. However, there was little evidence of either, except for Vera lighting up the first half with his finish.

Paraguay's three-pronged attack had found space on the edge of the box and began to put it to good use when Lucas Barrios's delicate pass was met by the outside of Vera's right boot as he dispatched a curling effort into the net from 12 metres. The goal briefly sparked Slovakia into life. They had their best spell with defender Kornel Salata heading over from a corner after a long period of possession.

In the second half, the game slowed down even more and Slovakia's managed only one shot on target. Paraguay stretched their lead four minutes from time thanks to Riveros's sweet left foot. The midfielder, who joined Sunderland last month, collected Paulo da Silva's square ball on the edge of the box before sending it high past Jan Mucha.

South American teams have now won six and drawn two of the eight games they have played in the tournament so far. Paraguay have not gone beyond the second round in seven previous World Cup campaigns but having seen off both Argentina and Brazil in an impressive qualifying run, they just might fancy their chances of breaking that duck this time around.

Slovakia (4-4-2): Mucha, Pekarik, Skrtel, Salata (Stoch, 83), Durica, Sestak, Strba, Hamsik, Weiss, Kozak, Vittek (Holosko, 70).

Paraguay (4-1-3-2): Villar; Bonet, Alcaraz, Da Silva, Morel; V Cacares; Vera (Barreto, 87), Riveros, Torres; Barrios (Cardoza, 82), Haedo Valdez (Torres, 68).

Referee E Maillet (Seychelles).

Man of the match: Riveros.

Attendance: 26,643.