By Daniela Desantis
ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguay's goal is to go further than ever at the World Cup by reaching the last eight with a more attacking game than in the past, based on the experience of their leading players.
They go to South Africa shocked by the shooting of their emblematic striker Salvador Cabanas in a Mexico City bar in January, and determined to do well for their team mate who is recovering at a rehabilitation center.
Paraguayans believe the team will finish in the top two of a relatively comfortable group with holders Italy, leaving Slovenia and New Zealand in their wake, though some fear a repeat of their disappointing 2006 finals when they failed to progress from the opening round.
Paraguay, overshadowed in South America by big neighbors Argentina and Brazil, have changed their game under Argentine coach Gerardo Martino, putting greater emphasis on attack and not depending solely on solid defense and aerial power, their traditional strengths.
Martino's plans took a nasty knock with the shooting of Cabanas, a key figure on and off the pitch, and he has sought to replace him beyond Paraguayan borders with the naturalization of Argentine-born striker Lucas Barrios which came through just in time.
It helped that Barrios, who scored 19 goals in his first season in the Bundesliga, plays alongside Paraguay striker Nelson Haedo Valdez at Borussia Dortmund and did not look likely to be called up by Argentina coach Diego Maradona.
Barrios, whose mother is Paraguayan, would fit in more quickly to the team set-up, having played with Haedo Valdez, argued Martino when confronted with criticism of the choice.
Martino has two more top strikers in Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo and a midfield mix that includes two more Argentine-born players, Jonathan Santana and Nestor Ortigoza, who shared the junior ranks at Buenos Aires club Argentinos Juniors with Barrios.
"Whether we are strong (enough) or not, I don't know, but I do know we'll give all (our opponents) a fight," Martino said.
(Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Clare Fallon)