Paraguay coach Ramon Diaz said he has learned his lesson from their group-stage clash with Argentina, ahead of their re-match in the Copa America semi-finals.
Diaz’s men were outclassed early against the Argentines in their Group B opener on June 13, trailing 2-0 via Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi goals as they tried to sit back and temper their star-studded attack.
The second half was a different story, however, as the Paraguayans climbed off the canvas in La Serena to earn a 2-2 draw after Lucas Barrios struck a 90th-minute equaliser.
“We have learned that we cannot go out and close up at the back against Argentina,” Diaz told a news conference on Monday.
“We have to go out and play. This will be different. We know that if we make mistakes, we could miss out on the final.
“We are evaluating everything we have done in this Copa America.
“For us it’s an important test: of character, of determination.
“We know what we want, we know how we want to play, we know who we are up against. But I have great belief in this team.
“We have experienced players and for me, we are going to play a great game.”
Derlis Gonzalez was Paraguay’s hero in the quarter-finals, scoring in their come-from-behind 1-1 draw with Brazil – before netting the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.
However, euphoria quickly turned to tragedy when the 21-year-old learned his uncle Irrazabal Manuel suffered a heart attack after watching the game, and died.
Diaz backed the Basel forward to play through the loss.
“I have no doubts about the team,” the former River Plate coach said.
“But I will confirm one of the most promising youngsters in Paraguayan football: Derlis Gonzalez.
“People talk a lot about age, but he is a great example and he had the character to take two penalties in very difficult circumstances.
“He is one of the great future players for Paraguay.
“He is a very strong player who is in a difficult moment, but he is a guy who has to keep growing.”
On a lighter note, Diaz revealed his players have been offered the incentive of their own pick-up trucks if they advance to the Copa final.
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