World Cup Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
(All times Eastern)
Paraguay (1-0-2) vs. Japan (2-1-0), 10 a.m.
Pretoria, South Africa (Sports Network) - For a country that had to wait until
this year to record its first World Cup victory outside of home soil, Japan
seems awfully ambitious.
The Japanese pulled off a surprise in Group E as they finished second to the
Netherlands with two wins in their three group matches, including a crucial
3-1 win over Denmark last time out.
So when Japan meets Group F winners Paraguay at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on
Tuesday, they will be more than just happy to be there.
"For Japan it's a big win. I'm glad we won but I am not satisfied," said
Japanese striker Keisuke Honda after the win over Denmark. "The next game is
more important. I want to show the Japanese that nothing is impossible."
Most people would have thought that Japan reaching the knockout round was very
nearly unreachable, but manager Takeshi Okada is not one of them.
Okada was heavily criticized for saying before the tournament that he felt his
team could reach the semifinals, and now that they have gotten this far, Okada
feels like it is their unity that sets them apart.
"Our team has a strength that others don't have. We are truly united. We
wanted to demonstrate that football is a team sport," Okada said. "This was
our first objective [to reach the second round] so I am relieved."
Paraguay had to be more relieved than happy after its last group stage match,
a 0-0 draw with New Zealand, despite the fact that it was enough to clinch the
top spot in the group.
"The fact Paraguay qualified top of their group is historic. We have something
to celebrate but we're not getting carried away," said goalkeeper Justo
Villar. "We've taken a big step forward but there's still some way to go. The
match we really need to win is the next one."
If Paraguay does win that next match it will mark the first time in the
country's history that they will have reached the quarterfinals, but there is
still a need to be better in front of goal, with much of that responsibility
falling on the shoulders of striker Roque Santa Cruz.
Paraguay has always possessed a strong defense, and after conceding just one
goal in three games so far this tournament, that doesn't seem to be any
06/28 13:30:48 ET