Santa Cruz is Paraguay danger man, says Eriksson
FRANKFURT, June 5: England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has pinpointed Roque Santa Cruz as Paraguay's likely danger man when the teams meet in the World Cup on Saturday.
The Bayern Munich striker is set to play in the Group B opener despite missing most of the Bundesliga season due to a knee operation and a recent bout of tendinitis in the same joint.
''I don't know if Santa Cruz is going to play or not, if he's ready,'' Eriksson told reporters after England completed their World Cup friendlies with a 6-0 rout of Jamaica.
''He's an extremely important player for them. He's a second striker, he can play behind one striker or he can play behind two. I think he's their best player.'' Paraguay coach Anibal Ruiz says Santa Cruz will be fit to face England in Frankfurt. ''Roque will be there without any problem,'' he told reporters last week.
England go into the game as favourites but need to be patient against a side who defend in depth and will look to deny Eriksson's men time and space on the ball.
Paraguay's rugged defending and threat on the break gave France the biggest scare on their way to World Cup glory in 1998 and Eriksson expects more of the same.
''It's a good team,'' said the England manager.
''It's a South American team so they will keep the ball, they are good at that, and they will try to have a lot of counter attacks against us.'' England are aware, though, that with a modest Trinidad&Tobago side next up, a win over Paraguay would mean a big step towards the second round.
Eriksson's team failed to make a winning start to the 2002 finals, drawing 1-1 with Sweden, who they meet again in their final Group B game in Cologne on June 20.
Captain David Beckham knows the implications of failing to win the opening match.
''If you don't start well in a big competition there's an added bit of pressure on you,'' he told reporters last week. ''Hopefully, we can put that right this time.'' Beckham expects a stern test from Paraguay.
''I don't think the games will be as easy as people are talking about,'' he said. ''I still think Paraguay will be a very tough team.
''Each team have some players who can potentially upset us in those games.''