CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 14: The Paraguay players celebrate as Antolin Alcaraz of Paraguay scores the opening goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group F match between Italy and Paraguay at Green Point Stadium on June 14, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Copa America 2011, Paraguay Vs. Ecuador: Another Scoreless Draw In Group B

Lucas Barrios and Paraguay take on Antonio Valencia and Ecuador in a likely battle for second place in Group B of the 2011 Copa America.

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Copa America 2011, Paraguay Vs. Ecuador: Another Scoreless Draw In Group B

Two Group B matches, zero goals. After Brazil and Venezuela played to a scoreless draw on Sunday afternoon, Paraguay and Ecuador did the same in the evening. Paraguay may have had the better of possession, but neither they nor Ecuador will claim to have played particularly well. In fact, the only standout player for either team was Marcelo Elizaga, who made a few fine saves to earn Ecuador a draw and put all four teams in Group B level with one point apiece.

It was Paraguay who threatened first with a quick move down the left side. They unlocked the Ecuador defense down the flank before finding Santa Cruz open at the penalty spot, but the Blackburn striker shot too close to Elizaga and he was denied. Not long after the Ecuadorian backline broke down and couldn't clear a cross, leaving Nestor Ortigoza to poke the ball in, but once again Elizaga came flying across to make a tremendous diving save.

For all of Paraguay's harmless passing around the midfield and Ecuador's chasing it was actually Ecuador who had the best chance of the first half. Christian Benitez was stranded all alone on a counter-attack like so many other times in the match, but this time he made a special play. He dribbled through three defenders to get in alone on goal, but when he tried to round the keeper Juston Villar was able to get just the slightest of touches on the ball to knock it away.

The second half went better for Ecuador. They wrested some of the possession away from Paraguay and began to draw some fouls and corner kicks, but they were unable to make anything happen from their set piece opportunities. When they couldn't find a way to get set pieces, too many times Ecuador settled for shots from distance that may have been blistering, but were always unlikely to put a dent on the scoreboard.

Santa Cruz got one more chance to score in the second half when he was poorly marked in the center of the box. The cross came in from the left and Santa Cruz rose to meet it. He nodded it down towards the far post, but once again Elizaga was there to make the crucial save and keep the match scoreless.

Without a goal scored on Sunday there was nothing to separate the four teams of Group B as they all sit on one point. The group returns to action on July 9 with Brazil and Paraguay playing in Cordoba and Ecuador facing Venezuela in Salta.

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Copa America 2011, Paraguay Vs. Ecuador: Nothing Doing In Scoreless First Half

Those looking for exciting football, avert your eyes. Paraguay and Ecuador might have had a chance here and there, but most of the first half was Paraguay passed the ball around the midfield with no idea what to do once they got into the final third then Ecuador trying to counter-attack, but doing so with two attackers versus five defenders. In short, it was an ugly first half and the 0-0 scoreline is an accurate representation of the match.

Paraguay did generate two good chances to score, but both times Marcelo Elizaga was there to deny them. The first chance came when a good run down the left unlocked the Ecuador defense and led to a free shot for Roque Santa Cruz from 15 yards, but he struck it too close to the keeper and Elizaga made the save. Not long after a cross was bungled by the Ecuador defense and Nestor Ortigoza punced. He struck a shot from close towards the near post, but once again Elizaga was there to deny him.

Of all the chances, Ecuador actually had the best one and it happened to be their only real chance of the first half. A quick counter-attack left Christian Benitez out alone up top versus three defenders, but he didn't  hesitate. He dribbled through all three to get in alone on the goalkeeper, but when he went to round the keeper, Justo Villar was able to just barely get a toe to the ball and knocked it away.

The midfield play of Paraguay has been good. They've knocked the ball around fine and any time they've given the ball up they have been quick to win it back. The problem is that Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios, who are supposed to be Paraguay's deadly strikers, have been strangely static. They've spent too much of the match watching and many of their runs have been late.

If either team were to be picked to win then it would have to be Paraguay, but the truth is that neither team has looked particularly good. With Brazil being surprised earlier in the day in a 0-0 draw against Venezuela, the door is open for Paraguay or Ecuador to win Group B, but after 45 minutes neither looks like they will take advantage of it.

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Copa America 2011, Paraguay Vs. Ecuador: Lineups

If we've learned anything from the first few days of Copa America it is that there is no super team. Sure, some teams are better than others, but no one is invincible and that opens the door for teams like Paraguay and Ecuador. Paraguay has the chance to prove themselves after an impressive World Cup last summer and maybe challenge for the championship, while Ecuador will be looking to advance to the knockout stages for the first time since 1997. Both seem like real possibilities with the strange way the first few days of the tournament have played out and they get to start their Copa America journey today with their first match of Group B.

Paraguay (4-4-2): Justo Villar; Dario Veron, Paulo da Silva, Ivan Piris, Aureliano Torres; Enrique Vera, Cristiano Riveros, Marcelo Estigarribia, Edgar Barreto; Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios

Ecuador (4-4-2): Marcelo Elizaga; Neicer Reasco, Frickson Yano, Norberto Araujo, Walter Ayovi; Antonio Valencia, Segundo Castillo, Narciso Mina, Christian Noboa; Felipe Caicedo, Christian Benitez

The match kicks off at 5:30 pm ET in Cordoba's Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes. It will be the first match of the tournament in Cordoba.

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Copa America 2011: Paraguay Vs. Ecuador

With Brazil being Brazil and looking like a team very much favored to capture all three points against Venezuela, Paraguay and Ecuador could be fighting for second place in the group's second game of the afternoon. It's very possible that the third placed team from this group could go through, and in that respect a draw might suit both teams just fine, but both would go a very long way towards making the group stage of the 2011 Copa America with a victory on Sunday.

Both Paraguay and Ecuador have a good deal of players with big talent and big game experience, both at international and club level, but a couple stand out above the crowd. Lucas Barrios of Paraguay and Antonio Valencia of Ecuador will be the focal points of their teams, and both are coming off very good club seasons. Though both players suffered serious injuries at one point during the year, both are healthy now and were spectacular when healthy.

While this match could go either way, Paraguay have the deeper side, especially in the center of midfield, and that should ultimately be the difference on Sunday. You can catch this match right after the Copa America match between Brazil and Venezuela. SB Nation will have extensive coverage of both matches.

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