Monday, April 15, 2024

Spain squeak by Paraguay


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JOHANNESBURG – David Villa saved Spain again yesterday, scoring with seven minutes left to give his team a 1-0 win over Paraguay and their first ever appearance in the World Cup semi-finals.With both sides having already missed penalty kicks, substitute Pedro Rodriguez, receiving a pass from Andres Iniesta, hit the post and the ball fell to Villa in the area. The striker took one touch before his curling shot hit the far post, rebounded onto the other and went in – putting him top of the tournament scoring charts with five goals.“The post wanted it to go in,” Villa said.Spain will play their semi-final in Durban on Wednesday against Germany, the team they beat in the 2008 European Championship final.“Quite apart from their results, the Germans are playing brilliantly, so they must be tremendously motivated,” Iniesta said. “It will be a game between two rivals who enjoy having the ball and I think it will be a beautiful battle.”But Paraguay’s defence mostly kept Spain’s vaunted attack at bay, and both teams’ best chance to win in normal time came from the spot.Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas saved a 59th-minute penalty kick by Oscar Cardozo. Paraguay captain Justo Villar matched him two minutes later, but only after referee Carlos Batres made Xabi Alonso retake an initially successful kick because of encroachment by several teammates.“We played Spain on an equal footing but we were unlucky; there’s not a lot else to say,” Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino said. “Spain have moved on to the semi-finals, but we could have too. That’s the feeling I have when I look at the talents and capabilities of each side.”Paraguay, making their first quarter-final appearance, matched Spain for chances until the European champions improved after Fernando Torres made way for Fabregas in the 53rd.“It’s been a very tough, very uncomfortable match, but this is more or less what we predicted,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “We felt very uncomfortable with the ball, more than ever, and we have to praise Paraguay for that.“With the substitutions, we wanted to refresh the team. We weren’t very fine with the ball and I wanted to have more men in the midfield, so we could have more possession.”But Paraguay could have been ahead by then.Casillas easily saved Jonathan Santana’s first-minute shot but could do nothing about Nelson Valdez’s 41st-minute, close-range finish. Valdez swept the ball into the net but his effort was ruled out for an offside, with replays showing that Cardozo had strayed as the crucial pass came forward.“We exerted a lot of pressure throughout the match,” Martino said.
“We went backward sometimes but we always had that intention to harm them as much as possible.”Martino felt the goal had been wrongly disallowed.“But FIFA will apologise tomorrow and everything will be fine,” he said sarcastically. (AP)Line-upsParaguay – Justo Villar, Dario Veron, Claudio Morel, Oscar Cardozo, Edgar Barreto (Enrique Vera, 64), Antolin Alcaraz, Jonathan Santana, Paulo Da Silva, Victor Caceres (Lucas Barrios, 84), Christian Riveros, Nelson Valdez (Roque Santa Cruz, 72).Spain – Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Joan Capdevila, Carles Puyol (Carlos Marchena, 84), Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Pedro Rodriguez, 75), Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Fernando Torres (Cesc Fabregas, 56).


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