Paraguay has the talent to shake up the 2006 World Cup favorites' expectations and make sure the tournament stays exciting, national team coach Anibal Ruiz told DW-WORLD.DE.
Anibal Ruiz has helped Paraguay put together a fresh, young team
Uruguayan coach Anibal Ruiz has been at the helm of Paraguay's trip to the World Cup finals and was one of just three coaches who made it through the entire qualification process. Ruiz, one of Uruguay's coaching stars, has a reputation as a polite, refined coach, which keeps him in good standing with the Paraguayan media and public.
DW-WORLD.DE: What can be said about the Paraguay team based on its World Cup preparations?
Anibal Ruiz: I think our preparations up to the moment have been good. We have taken care of the logistics for our participation in the World Cup, we're visiting all the national team players, observing what our opponents are doing and keeping up with how our injured players are healing, as is the case with Roque Santa Cruz.
You were named South America's 2005 Coach of the Year. Was that recognition for the development of soccer in Paraguay?
Yes, of course. Paraguayan soccer has presented itself very well on the international stage over the past few years: participating in the World Cup three times in a row, a very finish at the Olympics in Athens, good presentations at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups. All of this is no accident -- it's the result of conscience work with young talent. In the current national team we have 50 percent of the players who were in the Olympics. Many of them have been training with me since their time on the U-20 side. That is what I call a process.
In Paraguay we have managed what all other countries find very difficult: a generation breakthrough. The teams that tried it didn't qualify for the World Cup, but we did it smoothly.
England's Wayne Rooney, right, and David Beckham will be difficult opponents
What is Paraguay's plan for the World Cup?
Paraguay has to do better in 2006 than in 2002 and 1998. We know how difficult our group is: Sweden, England, and Trinidad and Tobago are not easy opponents.
We want to be a main player in Germany and to do that we're going to have to rely on our expertise, and our skills and prove why our players can play in the best leagues in Italy, Spain, Germany, Mexico and Brazil. We don't just want to be participants in Germany but protagonists.
What is your evaluation of your opponents?
There are no easy opponents at the World Cup. The 32 best teams take part and the path to the final is full of hurdles. We're actually going to be playing against three European teams.
Under Leo Beenhakker's instruction, Trinidad and Tobago play a very "Dutch" game. Paraguay is not going to have a problem with that, we realize and respect that the next opponent is always the most difficult.
Roque Santa Cruz should be back in shape for the World Cup
Where are Paraguay's strengths?
The best player on our team is the team itself. Rationality and structure are essential, with them we'll be able to do it. Paraguay won't be an easy opponent for anyone.
What can Paraguay still improve?
Quite a bit. We have to work on new alternatives to make sure our opponents don't know us by heart.
Will these alternatives change depending on the opponent?
They will have to.
What does the World Cup mean for you?
Every coach dreams of being there. The World Cup is soccer's biggest event, and it's where you learn a lot and can test your skills and knowledge.
Ruiz may be dreaming of the trophy, but he isn't telling anyone about it
How far do you realistically think Paraguay will make it?
Our idea is to move on step by step. Getting through the first round is the first step.
So you don't have any dreams or goals? No expectations?
Dreams shouldn't be shared, they should be realized.
What is your impression of the job Germany has done hosting the tournament?
Amazing! Everything we have seen is wonderful. The Germans are very warm and willing to help. You notice that they want their guests to feel at home.
Is it an advantage that three of Paraguay's most important members play in the Bundesliga?
Having players that are known to the country and know the country is a good starting point. It's not an advantage since all the teams have players in the world's best leagues -- in Germany and other places.
Will Paraguay be satisfied with the team's results?
Yes. We still want to show new things, a more beautiful game. We have a solid house, now we're putting in the beautiful furniture.