Paraguay players to watch against Bafana Bafana in Durban

West Ham United's Paraguayan defender Fabián Balbuena (C) shoots to score the opening goal after his header comes back off the post, during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and West Ham United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 27, 2018.
West Ham United's Paraguayan defender Fabián Balbuena (C) shoots to score the opening goal after his header comes back off the post, during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and West Ham United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 27, 2018.
Image: Ben STANSALL / AFP

Astonishingly when Paraguay trot out at the Moses Mabhida Stadium to take on Bafana Bafana in the Nelson Mandela Challenge on Tuesday night‚ it will be only the third international of the year for ‘La Albirroja’.

Paraguay did not qualify for the last World Cup‚ stunned at home in their last qualifier this time last year‚ and since then have played a friendly against the USA in North Carolina in March (lost 1-0) and against Japan in Austria‚ when they provided warm-up opposition just ahead of the global tournament (lost 4-2).

But this lack of international exposure does not mean they are not a quality side and these will be the players to keep an eye out for when they play South Africa.

JUNIOR ALONSO:

The 25-year-old left back is on loan at Celta Vigo‚ Benni McCarthy’s old club‚ from Lille in France. He says his preferred position is at centre-back but has won 18 caps already on the flank.

"I started playing as a left back‚ where I made my debut at Cerro Porteño. But my best position is that of the central defender on the left‚” he told his new club’s website.

Alonso says he tries to model his game on that of the Italian legend Paolo Maldini.

FABIAN BALBUENA:

West Ham defender Fabian Balbuena has taken no time adjusting to life in the Premier League and made many sit up and take notice since arriving on a three-year deal in July from Brazilian champions Corinthians.

He is a 6ft 2in enforcer who showed his qualities against Manchester United‚ with some excellent reading of the game and also a number of tackles.

Balbuena first moved to Brazil from Libertad in his homeland – where he had won two league titles – in 2016 and was forced to wait for an opportunity but when it came did not waste the chance.

ALEJANDRO GAMARRA:

Gamarra is the playmaker for the New York Red Bulls ad when he gets back to the Big Apple will go straight into the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Nicknamed ‘Kaku’‚ he was summoned to a get-to-know-you national team training camp in October‚ and is now in the squad for what will be La Albirroja’s first game under new coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

The 23-year-old was born in Argentina and represented the country of his birth at the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

But he switched allegiance to the country of his parents’ birth‚ earlier this year‚ winning his first cap as a second-half substitute in a friendly against Japan in June.

RICHARD ORTIZ:

Versatile Ortiz is the most capped player in the squad with 31 previous appearances for his country.

The 28-year-old plays for Olimpia in the capital Ascuncion but has played abroad in Mexico previously for Toluca.

He is more or less the Philipp Lahm of the team‚ alternating between the roles of a fullback/wingback and a deep lying playmaker.

FEDERICO SANTANDER:

The 27-year-old centre forward has netted four goals in Serie A already this season for new club Bologna.

He is a much travelled player with previous stints at Toulouse in France‚ Tigre and Racing in Argentina and FC Copenhagen‚ who sold him to Italy for 5.4-million pounds in July after he finished as the top scorer in the Danish league.

He made his national team debut while still a teenager in 2010.

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