Paraguay looked technically accomplished and potentially dangerous opening World Cup opponents for England last night as they fought out a draw with Wales in a barren friendly on a bitterly cold night.
Paul Jones, the veteran goalkeeper, was the saviour for a largely youthful Wales side, producing several agile saves. After he went off to a deserved ovation, his replacement Lewis Price denied Jose Cardozo an 88th-minute winner at point-blank range. But with only 12,324 hardy souls watching, the atmosphere was light years removed from the one that England and Paraguay are sure to generate in Frankfurt in June.
Anibal Ruiz, Paraguay's Uruguayan coach, acknowledged that the match was not exactly in the full-blooded category but he regarded it both as a useful bonding exercise for players who will be together through the summer and in terms of encountering English-style opposition. "We will be much better," he warned.
His Wales counterpart, John Toshack, said that Paraguay would offer England "a tough test". The fact that the game is the first for Sven Goran Eriksson's side would, he felt, lend it a certain volatility. "It's like the first game of the season. You're not quite sure what will happen," he added.
Paraguay's 20 supporters would have celebrated a goal on a number of occasions but for Jones' defiance.
After all the talk about Toshack's new emphasis on youth - with Lewin Nyatanga becoming the youngest Welsh international at 17 years, 195 days and giving a composed performance on the left of the back three - it was Jones, the 38-year-old custodian, who did most to keep Wales in contention.
Roberto Acuna, pulling the strings in a manner befitting his No 10 shirt, instigated most of the South Americans' attacks.
Wales had their moments, despite deploying Craig Bellamy as a lone striker. Bellamy, exposing Paraguay's offside trap with an ease that will have encouraged England's spies, had Wales' best chance before the break. Racing on to Jason Koumas' pass, he stopped and tried to chip Justo Villar from 15 yards, giving him an easy catch when he could have run on.
Nor will it have escaped the notice of Eriksson's spies that that Paraguay were prepared to shoot anywhere within 30 yards of goal.
Wales (3-5-1-1): Jones (QPR); Collins, Gabbidon (both West Ham), Nyatanga (Derby); Edwards (Wolves), Fletcher (West Ham), Davies (Everton), Koumas (West Bromwich), Ricketts (Swansea); Giggs (Manchester United); Bellamy (Blackburn). Substitutes used: Price (Ipswich) for Jones, 66; Ledley (Cardiff) for Koumas, 69; Robinson (Norwich) for Fletcher, 75; Crofts (Gillingham) for Davies, 76; Earnshaw (Norwich) for Bellamy, 78 Cotterill (Bristol City) for Giggs, 86.
Paraguay (4-4-2): Villar (Newells Old Boys); Caniza (Santos Laguna), Da Silva (Toluca), J D Caceres (Estudiantes), Toledo (Zaragoza); Barreto (NEC Nijmegen), Acuna (Deportivo La Coruna), Paredes (Reggina), Dos Santos (Bayern Munich); Ramirez (Flamengo), Valdez (Werder Bremen). Substitutes used: Gavilan (Newell's Old Boys) for Barreto, 58; Riveros (Libertad) for Dos Santos, 67; Cardozo (San Lorenzo) for Valdez, 70; Cabanas (Jaguares) for Ramirez, 77.
Referee: D McDonald (Scotland).Reuse content