Paraguay 0 Spain 1 – Five star David Villa seals a semi-final showdown with Germany

July 4th, 2010

David Villa underlined his reputation as the hottest striker in world football with a dramatic late winner that broke Paraguay hearts and confirmed quarter-final winners Spain as favourites to left their first World Cup.Villa produced an ice-cool finish on 82 minutes after dogged Paraguay had threatened to pull off another great shock in this tournament of surprises.

Barcelona’s new £34million man seized quickest onto a rebound after Pedro’s shot had hit the post, and drilled in a low drive that itself hit both uprights before nestling into the net.

The relief on Spanish faces was clear after a night riddled with tension that saw both sides miss penalties within 120 seconds of each other.

But when the dust settles, Spain will now fancy their chances of becoming champions after the exit of Diego Maradona’s Argentina.

They face Germany in a mouthwatering semi-final on Wednesday in a repeat of the Euro 2008 final which Spain won.

And if they get through that, they will be odds-on to defeat Holland or Uruguay in the final particularly with Villa in such form. He is currently the tournament’s leading scorer having bagged five of Spain’s six goals so far.

Relieved manager Vicente Del Bosque admitted: ‘Paraguay made it very uncomfortable for us but we’ve got through.

‘Villa is so hungry for goals, it is why he seems to be first at every rebound. Our goalkeeper Iker Casillas also played a huge part with his penalty save. He has been extraordinary in this World Cup.’

Man-of-the-match Andres Iniesta added: ‘It will be a beautiful battle against Germany. We have been watching them through the World Cup and they are on the top of their game.

‘We are proud, happy and every other positive adjective you can think of to be in the semi-final.’

Del Bosque will be aware however his team will have to play a lot better than they did in the first hour against Paraguay.

Spain’s usual passing A-game deserted them and they had not mustered a shot on target when Gerard Pique pulled down Oscar Cardozo after 59 minutes to earn Paraguay a penalty.

Casillas dived to his left to keep out Cardozo’s shot and Spain immediately went up the other end and got a penalty of their own when Villa was brought down by Antolin Alcaraz as he sprinted past the Paraguay defender.

Xabi Alonso smashed his first spot-kick into the roof of the net but when referee Carlos Batres controversially ordered a retake for a minor encroachment, the former Liverpool man put his second attempt low and saw it parried by Justo Villar.

Del Bosque admitted: ‘Paraguay didn’t let us play. I had to bring on Cesc Fabregas for Fernando Torres because we couldn’t keep the ball as well as we normally do and needed another man in midfield.

‘But to reach the semi-final (for the first time since 1950) is a fantastic moment for Spanish football. We have the resources to take on any rival, including Germany.’

Paraguay had only conceded one goal in their first four matches of the World Cup so it was never going to be easy for Spain to breach the South American defence.

Even so, Spain created very little in the opening 45 minutes despite enjoying 60% possession and Torres never looked like opening his World Cup account.

Indeed, Paraguay came closest to scoring when Jonathan Santana twice went close and Hector Valdez headed in after 41 minutes only for team-mate Cardozo to be flagged offside.

Sarcastic Paraguay coach Gerard Martino said afterwards: ‘The luck didn’t go with us tonight. The disallowed goal could have gone our way. I’d like to thank Fifa for apologising to us (they apologised to England when Frank Lampard’s shot crossed the line against Germany).’

When the unhappy Torres trudged off to be replaced by Fabregas after 57 minutes, little could he imagine how the game would suddenly explode into life in his absence.

Mr Bastres incensed Spain when he spotted Pique grabbing the left arm of Cardozo at a corner.

He pointed to the spot but Cardozo – who was in tears at the end – hit his penalty at a nice height for Casillas, who was able to clutch onto the ball first-time.

The let-off spurred Spain into life and a quick counter-attack saw Villa outpace the Paraguay defence before being brought down.

Alonso rather than Villa took the kick but having scored once, he was unable to repeat the feat after Mr Bastres ordered a retake. In the melee that followed Alonso’s parried second attempt, goalkeeper Justo Villar appeared to bring down Fabregas but this time there was no spot-kick awarded.

Just as Spain feared they would be taken into extra-time, Villa was on hand to save them yet again.

Iniesta started the move down the left and Pedro hammered his cutback onto the post.

Fortunately for La Roja, it rebounded to the lethal Villa, who took one touch to control and a second to drill a low finish which bounced off the right-hand post, rolled across the line and clipped the inside of left-hand post before nestling in the net.

Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz had one late glorious chance to equalise for Paraguay but was foiled by Casillas.

The big debate now will be to see if Torres keeps his place against Germany after a fifth goalless game, even though Del Bosque insisted: ‘Physically, Torres is fine.’

With Villa in this form though, you would fancy Spain whoever lines up alongside him.

Source: Daily Mail

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