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Costa Rica v Paraguay: Balbuena targeting title challenge

Paraguay want prove they are at the Copa America Centenario to win when they begin their Group A campaign against Costa Rica in Orlando on Saturday, says Fabian Balbuena.

La Albirroja finished as runners-up to Uruguay in the 2011 edition despite failing to win a single match over 90 minutes, while a 6-1 semi-final thumping at the hands of Argentina sent them packing in Chile last year.

Prior to those events, Paraguay had failed to finish in the top four since 1989.

However, defender Balbuena expects Ramon Diaz’s team to go deep into the tournament once again and wants to get off to a positive start against Costa Rica.

“At international level all prepare in the best way. I think the teams renowned for producing good performances are the candidates,” said Balbuena.

“But we also place ourselves as candidates because we know the potential we have.

“Anyone can beat anyone in football, or you can have a bad afternoon or bad night and go out of the competition.

“First you have to respect others and think about ourselves and going step by step towards our objective and make clear that Paraguay is not only here to compete.

“The opponent to beat is Costa Rica … I think we’ll get on fine on Saturday.”

Diaz’s only fitness concerns are Gustavo Gomez, Miguel Almiron and Victor Ayala, who were the latest players to join the squad.

Paraguay were beaten 1-0 by Mexico in their only pre-tournament friendly, while Costa Rica defeated Venezuela 2-1 in the Central American side’s single warm-up.

Ariel Rodriguez scored the winning goal for Oscar Ramirez’s team in San Jose, but a muscle strain has ruled him out of the competition in the United States – Johnny Woodly has been chosen as his replacement.

The biggest blow in their preparation, however, has been the withdrawal of goalkeeper Keylor Navas due to an Achilles injury.

However, there is still plenty of talent available, with Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell likely to be key to their campaign.

Fri 3 Jun, 2016
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