Spain reach semi-final with 1-0 win over Paraguay

Saturday, July 3, 2010

JOHANNESBURG - Spain reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time by knocking off resilient Paraguay 1-0 in a tense quarter-final match Saturday.

David Villa scored the only goal of the match for the European champions in the 83rd minute at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium.

The quarter-final featured a Paraguay goal which was disallowed and two missed penalties within three minutes, the second which Spain’s Xabi Alonso converted but had to re-take and was blocked.

Spain, who finally made the semis after four previous quarter-final exits, will next take on Germany in the second semi-final Wednesday in Durban.

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque said he was not afraid of Germany, which thumped Argentina 4-0 in the day’s other quarter-final.

“There’s no reason to fear Germany,” he said. “We have the right approach. The team showed that tonight. They gave everything they got,” he said.

It will be the fourth meeting between the teams with West Germany winning in 1966 (group stage) and 1982 (Round of 16), and Germany drawing in 1994.

Spain had finished fourth in 1950, but the final four teams played in a final group to determine the winners.

Paraguay already had set a national World Cup best by reaching the quarter-finals.

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino made six changes to the line-up which beat Japan in a penalty shootout, bringing in Oscar Cardozo, Dario Veron, Edgar Barreto and Nelson Valdez while injured Jonathan Santana returned as did the suspended Victor Caceres.

Heading to the bench were Carlos Bonet, Enrique Vera, Nestor Ortigoza and the forward trio of Lucas Barrios, Roque Santa Cruz and Edgar Benitez, who have not scored yet in South Africa.

Del Bosque, meanwhile, entrusted the same starting eleven which beat Portugal 1-0.

The compact Paraguay defence kept the Spaniards without a chance for the first 29 minutes before Xavi nearly gave the Iberians the lead with a long blast which went just over the crossbar.

Paraguay found the back of the net in the 41st minute through Valdez but linesman Carlos Pastrana from Honduras had raised his flag. Television replays, however, showed that the Borussia Dortmund striker was not offside and did not handle the ball.

Fernando Torres continued his struggles at the World Cup and Del Bosque substituted him out in the 56th minute in favour of Cesc Fabregas.

Paraguay were awarded a penalty just moments later when Gerard Pique yanked on Cardozo’s arm in the area. The Benfica forward stepped up the spot but watched Spanish keeper Iker Casillas hold his shot in the lower right corner in the 59th minute.

Guatemala referee Carlos Batres pointed to the spot for Spain on their next counter attack when Antolin Alcarez took down Villa in the area.

Xabi Alonso converted his attempt into the upper left corner in the 60th minute, but Batres ruled that a Spanish player had encroached into the area and Alonso had to re-take the penalty.

Villar blocked away Alonso’s second shot towards the lower right corner in the 61st. The keeper took down an in-charging Fabregas on the rebound attempt but Batres did not award another spot kick.

Spain finally scored in the 83rd minute in another wild scene. Pedro’s shot was stopped by the left post and the rebound went to Villa, whose shot banged off the far right post and then off the left post and in.

It was Villa’s fifth goal of the tournament, putting him atop the scoring list.

Paraguay had a final chance in the 89th minute but Casillas made saves on Barrios and Santa Cruz.

Andres Iniesta was named Man of the Match.

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