By Calvin Palmer
The more I see of Paraguay the more they remind me of Stoke City on a bad day, lots of honest endeavour that produces little in the way of goals or entertainment. Last night’s semi-final against Venezuela in the Copa América was dire.
The 90 minutes of normal time was excruciating to watch as neither side had a player of real quality to break the deadlock. Venezuela perhaps came closest but Paraguay’s defence held firm, and the one time it was breached, the referee assistant’s flag came to the rescue. Vizcarrondo’s header was disallowed for offside.
At 70 minutes, it was plain to see that this game was not only destined for extra-time but also a penalty shoot-out. And so it proved.
Even the dismissal of Paraguay’s Santana for a second bookable offense could not tip the scales in Venezuela’s favour. They huffed and they puffed but could not translate territorial advantage into that all important goal.
The nearest thing to drama occurred when the Paraguay coach and his assistant became embroiled in a slanging match with the referee and one of the Venezuelan coaching staff. The referee banished both men from the touchline and a baseball hatted cop was on hand to see that the referee’s ruling was enforced.
So it came down to penalties and once again Paraguay’s goalkeeper, and skipper, Justo Villar emerged as the hero, saving Lucena’s spot-kick. All it need was for Veron, the Andy Wilkinson lookalike, to score from the spot and Paraguay were through to the final. Veron duly obliged with a fierce shot that gave the Venezuelan keeper no chance.
The Guardian’s coverage of this match also alluded to the similarity between Paraguay and Stoke City. Jacob Steinberg in his summing up states:
“Paraguay are the epitome of anti-football. They’re in the final and they haven’t won a single game.”
The anti-football tag has been applied by a great many football pundits and fans regarding Stoke City in the past, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger being among the vanguard.
The Guardian piece also contains:
“How do you think Jon Walters would do in this game tonight?” asks Alec McAulay. “You remember him. I am sure.”
Jon Walters is a clodhopper, so he could probably fit in well in the Paraguay midfield.
Clearly Steinberg’s memory does not extend as far back as May and Stoke City’s destruction of Bolton Wanderers in the semi-final of the FA Cup, where Walter’s scored two goals one of which was worthy of goal of the season.
If I were Jon Walters, I would be taking legal advice about Steinberg’s slur.
Paraguay versus Venezuela was certainly not a game for football purists. I spent more than two hours watching the TV coverage by Univision and the moments of interest during that time had little to do with the football action.
First I noticed the game was being played at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in the city of Mendoza. You don’t need to speak Spanish to know that the name translates into Stadium of the Argentine Falkland Islands.
The stadium was originally named Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza but was renamed in 1982 after the Falklands War. Whether it was renamed in honour of Argentina’s war dead, I don’t know but Argentina still claims sovereignty of the islands.
The mainly British Falkland islanders wish to remain British and the UK government has repeatedly told Argentina that no talks will be held over the future sovereignty as there is no issue to resolve.
During the match I kept seeing these white marks appear on the playing surface and they seemed to coincide where the wall of players lined up to defend a free-kick. I noticed too that the referee had what looked like a spray can tucked into his shorts but couldn’t work out what is was for.
Near the end of extra time, the referee awarded a free-kick and the TV cameras showed him using the spray can to mark the spot where the ball was to be placed and then pacing out the distance where the wall should form and spraying a line on the turf. What an excellent idea to stop players in the wall encroaching on the 10 yards they should be from the ball.
Apparently this practice has been in use in Brazil for 10 years; Argentina for three years; Mexico for two years; and has also spread to Uruguay and Chile.
FIFA has approved its use by CONMEBOL, the South American ruling body. I wonder if it will eventually spread to the European game?
Although the football served up by Paraguay and Venezuela for more than two hours was dire, the advert breaks offered some entertainment and the T Mobile ad in particular was most pleasing on the eye.
It features the charms of Latin beauty Valeska Castillo. Apparently she is based just down the road from me in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area and is on the books of the Elite Model Agency in Miami.
I can find no links on YouTube to the T Mobile TV ad I saw, no doubt such links will surface in the weeks and months ahead as her beauty becomes more widely known.
However, I did find a clip of Valeska on Vimeo, which was shot for the Elite Model Agency.