Paraguay arrived for the start of the World Cup qualification on the back of a very recent managerial change: Since their appearance in the second (and final) group stage in the 1989 edition of Copa América, which had finished on July 16, Argentine boss Eduardo Luján Manera had been replaced by Cayetano Ré. The latter, aged 51, was indeed returning to his former managerial post, as he’d led the Paraguayan team during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where they had reached the round of 16, bowing out to England.
Paraguay had since exited the 1987 version of Copa América after the group stage, failing to score a single goal in their two matches under head coach Silvio Parodi, and then, only recently, progressed through to the second stage along with the continent’s big guns Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Despite their inability, again, to notch even a single goal, their progress from the original group stage must have come as a fine boost. They’d won their first three matches scoring nine goals in the process, before changing their team around a little ahead of the final, and meaningless, group stage game against Brazil, losing 2-0. Subsequent losses to Uruguay and Brazil (again), as well as a scoreless draw with equally goal-shy Argentinians, meant they had finished bottom of the final group.
With the availability of former boss Ré, Manera had to go. The former Spain professional (he had featured for Elche, Barcelona, Espanyol, Terrassa and Badalona cross 14 years) had been in charge of Real Betis during the 1988/89 season, which had ended in relegation from the top flight. Still, he apparently was held in high regard within the Paraguayan FA.
During the 1986 World Cup, Paraguay under Ré had appeared in a 3-4-3 formation, where César Zabala, a 25 year old of Cerro Porteño in Asunción, had been their libero behind two man-marking centre-backs. With Ré coming back to try and guide the nation to a second successive World Cup, this is a noteworthy observation. They had indeed lined up in three of four matches using players with shirt numbers 1-11, with number 16 Jorge Guasch appearing for their final group stage game, the 2-2 draw with Belgium, due to centre-back Vladimiro Schettina’s suspension for having accumulated two yellow cards.
Brazil based midfield playmaker, Julio César Romero, had been their big star of that ’86 team, as he had been voted ‘South American player of the year’ in 1985, playing for Fluminense. For one reason or another, Romero had not been present during the recently held continental championships, though the now 28 year old would return in time for the start of the World Cup qualification. He had tested himself in the Spanish league with Barcelona, though had returned to ‘his’ side of the Atlantic Ocean to feature for Mexican club Puebla before the start of the World Cup qualification. Romero’s seven Primera División matches had yielded one goal in the famous Barça jersey.
In the recently held Copa, four players had registered two goals each: Adolfino Cañete, 17 year young hotshot Gustavo Neffa, Alfredo Mendoza and Buenaventura Ferreira. Neffa apart, the three others had all appeared during the 1986 World Cup. Indeed, manager Ré would still hold close to him many of the players who had featured in the Mexico tournament.
In a tight-looking group, Paraguay would surely prove to be a match for both Colombia and Ecuador, and, as you’d expect, particularly at home in their capital of Asunción, where they’d be playing both matches in the Estadio Defensores del Chaco. Could they go all the way and win the group, and qualify for the inter-continental play-off match against the winners of the Oceania group, though?
15.05.1989: Paraguay 1-1 Peru
Goal: Brítez Román
Line-up: Fernández – Cáceres, Caballero, Rivarola, Viera – Franco, Escobar, Almirón – B Ferreira, Palacios, Brítez
also used: Román, Aranda
25.05.1989: Bolivia 3-2 Paraguay
Goals: Rojas, Franco
Line-up: Fernández – Cáceres, Caballero, Rivarola, Jacquet – Franco, Chamorro, J Ferreira – B Ferreira, Palacios, Brítez
also used: Ramírez, Riveros, Torres
01.06.1989: Paraguay 2-0 Bolivia
Goals: B Ferreira (2)
Line-up: Espínola – Cáceres, Caballero, Delgado, Rivarola – Franco, Riveros, J Ferreira – B Ferreira, Palacios, Brítez
also used: Torres
01.07.1989: Paraguay 5-2 Peru (neutral ground in Salvador, Brazil)
Goals: Cañete (2), Neffa, Mendoza, del Solar (own goal)
Line-up: Fernández – Torales, Zabala, Delgado, Jacquet – Franco, Guasch, Cañete – B Ferreira, Neffa (Palacios), Mendoza (Sanabria)
05.07.1989: Paraguay 1-0 Colombia
Line-up: Fernández – Torales, Zabala, Delgado, Jacquet – Franco, Guasch, Cañete – B Ferreira, Neffa (Sanabria), Mendoza (Palacios)
07.07.1989: Paraguay 3-0 Venezuela
Goals: Neffa, B Ferreira (2)
Line-up: Fernández – Torales, Zabala (Caballero), Delgado, Jacquet – Franco, Guasch, Cañete – B Ferreira (Palacios), Neffa, Mendoza
09.07.1989: Brazil 2-0 Paraguay
Line-up: Ruiz Díaz – Cáceres, Caballero, Rivarola, Torales – Franco, Chamorro, Sanabria – Brítez, Neffa, Palacios
12.07.1989: Uruguay 3-0 Paraguay (neutral ground in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Line-up: Fernández – Caballero, Zabala, Delgado, Jacquet – Franco (Palacios), Guasch, Cañete (Escobar) – B Ferreira, Neffa, Mendoza
14.07.1989: Brazil 3-0 Paraguay
Line-up: Fernández – Torales, Zabala, Delgado, Jacquet – Franco, Guasch, Cañete (Sanabria) – B Ferreira, Neffa, Palacios
16.07.1989: Paraguay 0-0 Argentina (neutral ground in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Line-up: Fernández – Cáceres, Zabala, Delgado, Torales – Franco, Guasch, Sanabria – Palacios, Neffa (Escobar), Mendoza (Brítez)
Qualifier 1: Paraguay 2-1 Colombia
27.08.1989, Estadio Chaco del Defensores (Asunción)
Goals: J Ferreira, Chilavert (pen.)
Line-up (4-3-3): Chilavert – Cáceres, Zabala, Delgado (c), Torales – Romero (J Ferreira 51), Guasch, Nunes – Hicks (B Ferreira 74), Neffa, Mendoza
With returning manager Cayetano Ré back in charge, Paraguay welcomed several stars who had missed out on their Copa América campaign. They were clearly improved having Romero, Nunes and Hicks back in the mix. In their 4-3-3, Paraguay dominated the game for large spells, though they couldn’t quite penetrate the visiting defence. Substitute Javier Ferreira and debutant ‘keeper Chilavert, with an injury time penalty, won them the game after they thought they’d lost a point following a late equalizer.
Qualifier 2: Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador
10.09.1989, Estadio Chaco del Defensores (Asunción)
Goals: Cabañas, J Ferreira
Line-up (4-3-3): Chilavert – Cáceres, Zabala, Delgado (c), Torales – Guasch, Nunes, J Ferreira – Hicks (B Ferreira 58), Neffa (Romero 68), Cabañas
Paraguay won their second successive qualifier, and are in pole position ahead of their two away trips. It was never easy against an Ecuador side which enjoyed the majority of the possession, but on an afternoon when the Paraguayan midfield failed to wrestle control of the tie, their defence, wonderfully marshalled by captain Delgado, stood firm. Cabañas was back in the side, and his excellent header saw them go in 1-0 at the break. After addressing their somewhat unbalanced midfield, bringing on Romero midway through the second half, the hosts immediately increased their advantage through youngster (Javier) Ferreira. Still, there was late drama as Chilavert saw red for an outright stupid trip on goalscorer Avilés, and with no more substitutes allowed on, Romero took over in goal for the final few minutes. Paraguay saw time out, and clung on to two precious points.
Qualifier 3: Colombia 2-1 Paraguay
17.09.1989, Estadio Metropolitano (Barranquilla)
Line-up (4-3-3): Fernández – Cáceres, Zabala, Delgado (c), Torales – Nunes (Caballero 62), Guasch, Romero – B Ferreira, Palacios (Neffa 25), Mendoza
A point in their penultimate qualifier, and Paraguay were already group winners. However, tackling Colombia away from home was always going to be a big ask, although the visitors’ first half performance certainly gave hope. They’d sat deep and counter-attacked, and Mendoza had struck beautifully right on half-time to even give them a buffer. Against a changed Colombia after the break, though, Paraguay completely gave away the midfield, and with Nunes a disappointment, possibly following a first half knock, Guasch was more or less left to fend off the home side’s Fajardo and Redín on his own. It didn’t work. By the halfway point in the second half they were behind, and having used both their substitutes, Ré couldn’t make further changes to try and turn the flow of events. The loss was deserved.
Qualifier 4: Ecuador 3-1 Paraguay
24.09.1989, Estadio Monumental (Guayaquil)
Final position: 2 (out of 3)
Total record: 4 2 0 2 6-7 4
Home record: 2 2 0 0 4-2 4
Away record: 2 0 0 2 2-5 0
Number of players used:
Number of players including unused substitutes:
Ever-presents (360 minutes):
– game by game
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