Paraguay v Ecuador

Santa Cruz: Paraguay can win Copa

July 2, 2011

Paraguay head into their Copa America opener against Ecuador on Sunday with striker Roque Santa Cruz believing they can go all the way in the competition.

Roque Santa Cruz paraguay
GettyImagesRoque Santa Cruz is one goal away from becoming Paraguay's joint-top all-time scorer

Brazil, who have won four of the last five editions of the event, and hosts Argentina are the favourites, but Paraguay - Copa America champions in 1953 and 1979 - will hope to give the two South American powerhouses something to think about as they try to build on their showing at last year's World Cup.

In South Africa, Paraguay reached the last eight - their best showing in the tournament - before falling to a late David Villa goal against eventual winners Spain.

Santa Cruz said: "What we're trying to do is continue growing and we've reached a moment where the best way to do that is to give Paraguay another title. The last time they won was in 1979 and we believe that right now as a group we have the ability to be champions again.''

Coach Gerardo Martino, whose side have been drawn in Group B alongside champions Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador, said: "Hopefully we will be candidates (to win the event). We've come here with the best intentions.''

Looking ahead to tomorrow's opener against Ecuador in Santa Fe, Martino said: "Winning is always good. It's an important game, but if we don't manage to win, we have to go out to win the others. We have high expectations, because we have the players and few injuries. The team is in good shape.''

The top two teams in each of the three groups progress to the quarter-finals, while the final two spots will be taken by the two best third-placed teams.

With Brazil and Paraguay also in their group, Ecuador, who have never won the Copa America, will not have it easy to finish in the top two and midfielder Michael Arroyo knows they need to hit the ground running.

He said of Sunday's game: "This is a first 'final' for Ecuador. They (Paraguay) are very strong. They have battle-hardened players who never give a ball up for lost.''

Striker Segundo Castillo added "It's a very short tournament where there isn't much room for error. It's a big hurdle to get through the first phase, but I think that Ecuador can do it. If we can't win, then at the least we will try not to lose.''