The Face of Caution
Against Italy,Paraguay defended deep and narrow, playing only one striker(Valdez spent most of his time in midfield) and were content to concede possession to the Italians. The fullbacks did not venture forward and the midfielders held their positions instead of supporting the attack. Paraguay must have felt that Italy were the better team so they focused on neutralizing the Italians rather than attacking them. As a result Italy did not create many chances and better defending from set pieces could have seen Paraguay snatch a win. This was a cautious performance where the goal was not to lose. Italy dominated possession but never looked like winning the game so the strategy was a success.
The Face of Aggression
Against Slovakia, Paraguay had a completely different approach. They lined up with 3 forwards and defended from the front. The front 3 closed down the Slovakian defense, not allowing them to build from the back, often using “tactical fouling” to break down the Slovakian moves. The midfield pressed heavily and were always looking to win back possession often surrounding the opposition players with 2 or 3 markers. The defense helped out by playing a very high line and not giving the Slovakian attacking players any time on the ball. Paraguay dominated possession and goal scoring chances, with Slovakia only having one shot on target the whole game. The fullbacks were free to move forward and support the attack and midfielders constantly made late runs into the penalty box. In the latter stages of the game, Torres, a midfielder, came on for one of the strikers and the team played a more cautious 4-4-2. Paraguay clearly set out to dominate the game and create as many chances as possible. Again the strategy was a success.
In an analysis of the Paraguay team, Tim Vickery noted that Gerardo Martino is a student of Marcelo Bielsa and initially wanted Paraguay to press the opposition and try to dominate games(The Face of Aggression). After a 6-0 humbling by Mexico in the Copa America, the coach realized that he had to be more pragmatic so came up with an alternative approach to use against superior teams (The Face of Caution ). Paraguay can switch between these two approaches with only one substitution(swapping a striker for a midfielder). This will give them an advantage because we have seen other teams at this World Cup demonstrate a lack of tactical flexibility.