Villa the difference as Spain beats Portugal
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Spain spent most of the night trying to break through Portugal’s defense. David Villa finally did it.
Villa scored off his own rebound in the 63rd minute, giving the European champs a 1-0 victory Tuesday that put them into the World Cup quarterfinals.
In a game where Spain dominated possession and outshot the Portuguese, Villa took Xavi Hernandez’ heel pass and struck a left-footed shot that was saved by Portuguese goalkeeper Eduardo.
He then fired the rebound with his right foot off the underside of the crossbar and into the net – his fourth goal of the tournament – sprinted to the near corner and slid on his knees to the flag, letting out a mighty yell.
“It was one of my best goals because it got us through to the next round,” Villa said. “Keep scoring so we can keep going.”
Spain plays Paraguay in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
While Villa is tied for the lead in scoring at the World Cup, it was a disappointing tournament for Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most expensive player. His only goal came late in Portugal’s 7-0 rout of North Korea in group play, and he had a quiet night against Spain.
The game came two years to the day that Spain ended 44 years of international futility by winning the European title. The last defending European champ to also capture the World Cup was West Germany in 1974.
Spain was about teamwork, and it showed from the start. Fernando Torres and Villa immediately moved down the left, looking to exploit Portugal’s defensive weakness at right back, where Ricardo Costa struggled. Within the first seven minutes, Eduardo had to make three quality saves to keep Portugal in the game on angled shots from Spain’s two strikers.
“His performance was brilliant,” Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz said of his goalkeeper. “He saved and kept the team fighting for the result.”
Yet Spain moved on to an intricate passing game through the center of the field. Once Portugal’s defense settled in it frustrated the Spanish, reducing them to long-range attempts by Gerard Pique.
Still, Villa knew a goal was coming.
“We never lost our confidence,” Villa said. “We know the potential we have and what we can give.”
This was 33rd time the Iberian neighbors have met in soccer, but the first time in the World Cup. Spain has won 16 of the matches to Portugal’s five.
Paraguay 0, Japan 0 (Paraguay wins 5-3 in penalty kicks)
PRETORIA, South Africa – The last thing Paraguay wanted was to wind up in a shootout with Japan. After all, the South Americans almost never practice penalty kicks – or have any success when they do.
Yet Paraguay took the most difficult route to its first World Cup quarterfinals Tuesday. After 120 exhausting minutes without scoring, the Paraguayans found their touch in penalty kicks, making all five to beat Japan.
Oscar Cardozo clinched the 5-3 shootout win after a 0-0 draw with a low left-footed drive past goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. The only miss in the shootout was by Japan defender Yuichi Komano on the third try when he hit the crossbar. That made the difference.
“We practiced penalty kicks once, so nobody could say we weren’t prepared,” coach Gerardo Martino said. “But our executions weren’t too good.
“You can’t recreate the environment you’ll face in a real game, with 40,000 fans.”
But the execution was perfect, climaxed by Cardozo’s winner.
“Character plays a big role,” Martino said. “What can you say when a Cardozo asks to kick the fifth penalty and he does it the way he did it?”
The Paraguayans are the fourth South American team into the final eight; only Chile fell short, and it lost to Brazil in the second round.
When Cardozo easily beat Kawashima to end the exhausting match and nerve-racking shootout, his teammates stormed onto the field in celebration of the nation’s biggest World Cup win. Cardozo pulled at his jersey, goalkeeper Justo Villar jumped on him, and they were quickly swarmed on by the whole team.
“This is tough. Both teams made a great effort. God was on our side,” added Martino, who was in tears after the game. “Now we hope to recover and to continue making history.”
Japanese players watched the final shot on their knees with their arms around each other. When it went into the net, they let go and sagged. Keiji Tamada fell onto his back, while Japanese players and fans wept.
Paraguay will play the winner of Tuesday night’s Spain-Portugal match in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“We are very happy as we never got this far,” Cardozo said. “Japan has great players, but we controlled the ball, which is what we wanted, and they didn’t score.”
It was the first match of this World Cup that went to penalty kicks, and for Paraguay it was no problem. Edgar Barreto, Lucas Barrios, Cristian Riveros, Nelson Valdez and Cardozo didn’t come close to missing.
Neither did Japan’s Yasuhito Endo, Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda. But Komano’s right-footed blast ricocheted off the crossbar as Komano put both hands to his head, realizing it could be a decisive miss.
“It is very difficult to narrow down why we didn’t score,” Japan coach Takeshi Okada said. “We should have made the opportunities. I think it is my responsibility.”
The Paraguayans have conceded only one goal, against Italy in the first round.
Both teams played cautiously at Loftus Versfeld, but had chances to score.
Paraguay dominated possession in the first half, yet Japan had the better chances. Midfielder Daisuke Matsui intercepted a poor clearance from the Paraguay defense and his shot from 25 yards hit the crossbar in the 22nd minute. Honda curled a shot just wide from the edge of the area after a quick break down the right by Matsui in the 40th.
Barrios took a pass in the 20th and sidestepped the last defender into the penalty area, but his weak shot with the outside of his foot went straight at Kawashima.
There was more of the same in the second half, with Paraguay controlling the ball, but doing little with it.
Paraguay had the best chance in the first period of extra time when Claudio Morel cut in from the left and fed the ball to a sliding Valdez, whose shot went straight to Kawashima.
Japan’s prowess on free kicks nearly paid off a minute later when Honda forced a save by Villar.
“I have no regrets over the way we played,” Okada said. “I am really proud of the players.”