Hammer Balbuena returns home for Copa America warm-up
Fabian Balbuena says he and his Paraguay teammates are determined to upset the odds and represent their country with honour at this summer’s Copa America.
The White and Reds head to Brazil as outsiders to be crowned South American champions for the third time in their history, with only Bolivia and guest entrants Japan and Qatar having longer odds to lift the trophy in Rio on 7 July.
However, as Paraguay prepare for their penultimate warm-up match against Honduras in his home city of Ciudad del Este on Wednesday evening, the West Ham United defender insists Carlos Berizzo’s squad will not be intimidated by the challenge ahead.
“We always come with great enthusiasm, regardless of where we come from,” said the centre-back, who will hope to earn his ninth cap against the Central American nation. “When one is called to the national team, the joy is great, the motivation and the satisfaction of being able to defend your country is as much as a player can aspire to.
“The atmosphere around the squad is spectacular. The coaching staff is doing a good job and I think all the squad members are assimilating well.
“We came together with a lot of enthusiasm and positivity. The important thing is that we believe in what we are doing and then, in the long run, the results will come.”
When one is called to the national team, the joy is great, the motivation and the satisfaction of being able to defend your country is as much as a player can aspire to
Paraguay, who have been getting for the Copa America at the national team training centre in Ypane, will complete their preparations by hosting Guatemala in the country’s capital, Asuncion, on Sunday afternoon.
Balbuena was part of Paraguay's squad at both the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, appearing in a group-stage fixture with the United States at the latter.
This year's tournament kicks-off in Brazil on 14 June but, before then, Balbuena will be involved in a warm-up fixture with Honduras in his home city of Ciudad del Este on Wednesday 5 June.
Paraguay, who previously won the tournament in 1953 and 1979, take on Qatar in Rio in their opening Group B fixture on Sunday 16 June before tackling Argentina in Belo Horizonte on Thursday 20 June and Colombia in Salvador on Sunday 23 June.
Balbuena will be West Ham's sole representative at the Copa America, as Manuel Lanzini and Carlos Sanchez have not been included by Argentina and Colombia respecitvely, while Felipe Anderson has been left out of Brazil's 23-man selection.