BLOEMFONTEIN // Enrique Vera, the scorer of Paraguay's opener in the 2-0 win over Slovakia yesterday, said his team were now targeting top spot in Group F. "It was lucky that I could score," said Vera. "The first goal came at the best moment in the first half and then we wanted to keep possession of the ball and the second goal made us calm." The win puts Paraguay top of the group with four points from two matches. Slovakia have one point.
"We played a good match and we are getting closer to the round of 16," Vera added. "Our intention now is to be first in the group." Playing with a three-man frontline spearheaded by Roque Santa Cruz, the Manchester City striker, Paraguay controlled possession and the flow of play from the start at Free State Stadium. They took the lead in the 27th minute when Lucas Barrios, the Argentine-born forward, slipped a pass into the box that Vera angled past Jan Mucha, the Slovakia goalkeeper, with a first-time shot. Cristian Riveros doubled the lead in the 86th with a left-footed drive from the edge of the box. "The first half was excellent. We were pushing forward and we had goalscoring opportunities," Gerardo Martino, the Paraguay coach, said. Slovakia, playing their first major tournament since the former Czechoslovakia divided in 1993, looked outclassed in the face of a physical Paraguayan side who beat both Argentina and Brazil in qualifying. "We made two mistakes and conceded two goals. There was always a punishment for our mistakes," Vladimir Weiss, the coach, said. "Our opponent was a really high-quality opponent and their victory was deserved." "It was very difficult because Santa Cruz and Barrios and [Nelson] Valdez are very strong players, good in the air and good with the ball," Martin Skrtel, the Slovakia defender, added. "They played better than us today and they won - they were the better team." * AP