Paraguay’s effectiveness in front of goal saw them overcome New Zealand in the Group B clash on Monday and become the first side to qualify for the Round of 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Two own goals from captain Alexis Duarte had pegged back the South Americans in the first-half, but a misjudgment from New Zealand goalkeeper Jacob Clarke for the equaliser opened the floodgates and Paraguay scored two more before the final whistle.
In 2015, it was the 2-1 loss against New Zealand that resulted in Paraguay being knocked out in the group stage of the U-17 World Cup in Chile. The current crop have avenged that.
At the centre of their comeback at the DY Patil Stadium was half-time substitute Anibal Vega. The SE Palmeiras forward, who did not play a part in Paraguay’s win against Mali, scored two goals between the 75th and 78th minute, which proved to be instrumental in usurping New Zealand’s defiance in the heavy rainfall.
“It is very difficult to comeback two goals down,” Vega said after the game. “But we have to congratulate the side, because it was a team effort. We kept our faith and our heads-up, which is why we were able to grab the victory tonight.”
Speaking about the disparity between playing club football in Brazil and playing for the U-17 national side, Vega revealed that there isn’t much for him, given that he does not need to alter his gameplay to fit into both sides.
“There is not much of a difference between the way the national side Paraguay and SE Palmeiras play. They are not like the other clubs in Brazil, stylistically. However, for me, I do not make any major changes to my gameplay between the club and the national side.”
The three points on Monday meant Paraguay have sealed qualification for the knockout stages, and will finish in the top 2 of Group B even if they were to suffer a loss against Turkey. And Vega was delighted to have played a part in it.
“I’m very excited. We have reached the knockout stages playing as a team. We plan to take everything one-step at a time. Sealing qualification was important and we are very happy about that.