Paraguay have managed just one win in seven friendlies (W1, D2, L4) in the run-up to this Copa América opener against Asian Cup winners Qatar, and whilst the South Americans are favorites here, they do have a rather unremarkable H2H record against the Gulf nation (W1, D1, L1).
Despite being winless in their last five Copa América fixtures (D1, L4), Paraguay is masters at the opening game of this tournament, last losing their first group game back in 1975 (W8, D6 since). If they are to continue that impressive record here, they will likely start well – ‘Los Guaraníes La Albirroja’ have been leading at half-time in four of their last six victories (all competitions, including friendlies).
Qatar’s 2-0 loss to Brazil earlier this month ended a seven-game winning run, with six of those victories coming ‘to nil’, and the last two seeing them leading at the break. Whilst the Qataris won with a -1 handicap in five of those wins, their recent defeats have been a lot tighter with six of their previous eight coming via a single-goal margin – four by a 2-1 scoreline.
In fact, the Gulf nation has only conceded more than two goals in a fixture just once in their last 29 games – however, that happened to be against South American side Ecuador, albeit Qatar still won 4-3.
Players to watch: Veteran striker Óscar Cardozo’s last three goals for Paraguay have all been as his nation’s first goalscorer.
Asian Cup top scorer Almoez Ali (QAT) scored five of his nine tournament goals before half-time.
Stat attack: There have been exactly three-match goals in five of Paraguay’s last six competitive games.
There have been two first-half goals in each of Qatar’s last three games.
There’s been at least one goal after the 75th minute in four of Qatar’s last five competitive fixtures.
Referee: Haro D. (Per),
Venue: Maracanã (Rio de Janeiro)