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Homage to Paraguay

One of the great things in watching the World Cup is a chance to appreciate a team like Paraguay. From a fan point of view, they're not all that fun to watch, for obvious reason--defensive gritiness, absence of big names, no spectacular plays, mind-numbing discipline. If it wasn't the obvious limits of the team's abilities, you could call them poor people's Germans. No one outside Paraguay rushes home to watch them, but it's hard not to admire the commitment and hard work and the fact they always make it hard for the other team to beat them. This is the kind of team I'd love to play in--much rather then, say, Portugal, what with the fancy-footwork Ronaldo. Or a team like Serbia, whose preferred approach to adversity is arbitrary self-destruction. While both Portugal and Serbia have exceptional individuals, Paraguay as a team always exceeds the sum of individual capabilities. I wish Bosnia and Herzegovina were capable of such discipline and unselfishness. Paraguay's admirable qualities, I suspect, would be entirely invisible to the American (or international) fan hung up on the notions of leadership or celebrity. Or the NBC-Olympics human story crap, say about the athlete overcoming delinquent youth, that could turn a turtle into Oprah-interview material.

Their games are full of dramatic struggles of survival. They're playing Italy as I'm writing this and it is 1:1. It is 10 minutes before the end and they're looking unlikely to have a shot at the goal, let alone score one. They would be very happy with a tie, so the game now is all about protecting what they have, and I'm on the edge of my seat, dozing.