In the Group A finale, the United States Men's National Team will face a familiar opponent from Copa Americas of years past. A win would guarantee the MNT advancement into the knockout stages, and a draw could also well do the trick. Kickoff in Philadelphia is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on FS1, UniMAS and Univision Deportes Network. Here are five things you need to know about Paraguay.
1) Not the first Copa America meeting:
The teams have met only six times in history and the spoils have been split down the middle with an even 2-2-2 record. The first meeting dates back to the 1930 World Cup where the U.S. used a 3-0 victory to advance out of the group stages and onto their highest World Cup finish. The last competitive match came in 2007 at Copa America. After winning the Gold Cup earlier that summer, Bob Bradley brought a largely experimental squad to Venezuela. Édgar Barreto put Paraguay ahead in the 30th minute before Ricardo Clark equalized just before halftime. Paraguay scored twice after the break through Oscar Rene Cardozo and Salvador Cabañas and put Paraguay through to the quarterfinals. Four players from that day remain on the squads for Copa America Centenario. For the MNT, Brad Guzan and Kyle Beckerman remain, while goalkeeper Justo Villar and center back Paulo da Silva have stuck around the Paraguay squad.
2) Two-time South American Champions:
Paraguay have been Copa America champions twice. The first was in 1953 when the competition was still known as the South American Football Championship. The format differs from today's group phase and knockout stage and only featured seven countries. Playing against each of the other nations, Paraguay finished joint top with Brazil on eight points. In the playoff, after a three goal first half scoring barrage, Paraguay held on to a nervy 3-2 victory in Peru.
In 1979 during the rebranded Copa America and in a group with Uruguay and Ecuador, Paraguay once again finished top and advanced to the semifinals for a rematch with fellow 1953 finalist Brazil who they beat 4-3 on aggregate to advance to a two-legged final against Chile. After splitting the first two games, a third game was played to a 0-0 draw, with Paraguay being crowned champions by a 3-1 aggregate score from the first two legs.
3) Eight-time World Cup Qualifiers:
Although failure to qualify for Brazil in 2014 was viewed as catastrophic for Paraguay, it was their first time left out since 1994. Paraguay have qualified for five World Cups since 1986 and have reached the knockout stage on four occasions. Their best finish was a quarterfinal run in South Africa in 2010. After winning a group that featured title holders Italy, Slovakia and New Zealand, Paraguay finished off Japan in penalties before falling to eventual champion Spain on a late David Villa winner.
4) The domestic league: Primera Division:
This summer's Paraguay squad features six players who play domestically in the Paraguayan Primera Division. The league was created in 1906, but only became fully professional in 1935. The country's two biggest clubs, Olympia and Cerro Porteño, each have three players represented. Between the two clubs are 71 titles and 53 runners up medals, with Olympia being crowned champions on 40 occasions. Three teams qualify for the Copa Libertadores, the major club competition on the continent, and Olympia has won three times: 1979, 1990 and 2002.
5) Goalscoring Goalkeeper:
When you think Paraguay and scoring goals, you might think towards Roque Santa Cruz, and for good reason. The former Bayern Munich and Manchester City striker is the leading goal scorer in team history tallying 32 goals. But Paraguay is also home to the second-highest goal scoring goalkeeper in the world, Jose Luis Chilavert. For club and country, the free kick and penalty specialist has scored more than 60 goals, including eight in a Paraguay shirt. He's the only goalkeeper to score a hat trick and was awarded the game ball for his efforts in a match for Argentine side Velez in 1999.