The fourth match of the 2019 Copa America sees Paraguay take on invited team Qatar, the Asian Cup champions, in Group B.
Maracana, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Key Stat: Paraguay ended a seven-game winless run with victory in their most recent friendly - but that was only their sixth win in 28 games.
Expert Verdict: Qatar stormed to Asian Cup victory prior to being one of the invited teams at the Copa America, but their record against sides outside of Asia is still poor. Paraguay's own form is poor too, but - in a tough group - they need to start with a win if they are to go further in this competition.
Roque Santa Cruz’s surprise international recall was short-lived, with the Olimpia striker forced to withdraw from contention for the Copa America – after being recalled to the preliminary squad – due to upcoming knee surgery. Fellow recalled veteran Oscar Cardozo led the line in the friendly win against Paraguay, with Oscar Romero and Derlis Gonzalez flanking him.
Oscar Cardozo – The veteran Libertad striker will lead the line this summer, having scored 11 times in his 53 international appearances – the most recent of which was against Honduras.
Miguel Almiron – Impressed in midfield with Newcastle this season, and the 25-year-old could play a key part for Paraguay now.
Derlis Gonzalez – The Santos striker sealed victory against Guatemala last time out from the spot, to move to six international goals.
Gustavo Gomez and Derlis Gonzalez scored in Paraguay’s 2-0 friendly win against Guatemala, which ended their seven-match streak without a victory. Oscar Cardozo had previously scored in a 1-1 friendly draw with Honduras, while Paraguay lost their two friendlies in March – 1-0 against Peru and 4-2 against Mexico.
Defenders:Ivan Piris, Bruno Valdez, Fabian Balbuena, Gustavo Gomez
Midfielders:Richard Ortiz, Miguel Almiron, Juan Rodrigo Rojas
Forwards:Oscar Romero, Oscar Cardozo, Derlis Gonzalez
Only three players are missing from the Asian Cup squad – Abdulkarim Al-Ali, Abdrelrahman Moustafa and Khaled Mohammed. Ahmed Moein missed out through injury, replaced by the latter, but is fit again and back in the squad.
Akram Afif – The Al-Sadd striker set up the first two goals and scored the third to help Qatar claim victory in the Asian Cup final.
Hassan Al-Haydos – The vastly experienced captain is both the top scorer and most-capped player in this squad, with 26 goals in 120 international appearances.
Almoez Ali – Led the way with nine goals in the AFC Asian Cup, including one apiece in the semi-final and final.
Qatar beat hosts UAE 4-0 in the AFC Asian Cup semi-final, with Boualem Khoukhi, Almoez Ali, Hassan Al-Haydos and Hamid Ismaeil all on target. They then sealed their first title by beating Japan 3-1 in the final – Almoez Ali, Abdulaziz Hatem and Akram Afif were on target. Their only match since then was a friendly with Brazil this month, with Qatar lost 2-0.
Goalkeeper:Saad Al Sheeb
Defenders:Pedro Miguel Correia, Bassam Hisham, Boualem Khoukhi, Tarek Salman, Abdelkarim Hassan
Midfielders:Hassan Al-Haydos, Assim Madibo, Abdulaziz Hatem
Forwards:Akram Afif, Almoez Ali
Paraguay and Qatar have each won one of their three previous meetings against one another - the most recent of which was Qatar’s 2-0 friendly win in November 2009.
With their home World Cup less than three years away, Qatar have hit top form at a good time and their Copa America adventure will be another chance to test their progress.
In the UAE, Almoez Ali was in top form – scoring nine goals up front throughout the campaign, including in the semi-final and final.
Akram Afif scored one and set up the other two in that final win, while Hassan Al-Haydos brings stacks of experience too.
Against non-Asian opposition, however, Qatar’s record is still poor – they lost to Brazil last time out, though there is no shame in that, and lost a recent friendly against Algeria too.
Paraguay’s form is poor but they earned victory last time out, against Guatemala, to ensure they go into the tournament on the back of a win rather than their poor run of results.
Qatar have proved they deserve to be viewed as serious opposition with their Asian Cup win, but they remain small fry in the wider global game.
Paraguay failing to overcome the invited team in their first match of this Copa America would likely mean they progress no further than the group stage.
Under such pressure, only a win will really do for the South Americans – a result they should still achieve.
Paraguay are odds-on favourites to beat Qatar in their first match of the 2019 Copa America, at a best price of 8/11 with Betway.
The South Americans’ form is poor compared to Qatar, however, and both teams to score could be worth backing at 11/8 with 888sport.
Over 2.5 goals is worth 31/20 with 888sport.
Oscar Cardozo is back to the lead the line for Paraguay and he is 7/5 to score at any time with Bet365.
Qatar’s AFC Asian Cup success shows they should not be taken lightly, but it would still be a surprise if they get far in this tournament – a Paraguay win would extinguish their hopes further.