Spain are though to the semifinals. But they didn’t make it easy on themselves.
Paraguay’s stout defending and Spain inability to break them down had made for a boring opening half. But the game exploded in the 57th minute, with one of the most remarkable sequences of the tournament.
Paraguay were awarded a penalty, only to have Iker Casillas save Oscar Cardozo’s attempt. Just two minutes later, Spain were awarded a spot kick, with Xabi Alonso stepping up to convert the chance. But referee Carlos Batres ordered it to be re-taken due to Spanish encroachment in the area. On the second try, Justo Villar stopped Alonso’s penalty to keep the game level — although another penalty easily could have been called on Paraguay for a takedown of Cesc Fabregas.
Spain finally broke through again in the 83rd minute, with David Villa putting a shot off both posts and in for his tournament leading fifth goal.
Notes from Joe
- Andres Iniesta was phenomenal. Seems to just effortlessly glide by defenders. Man of the match by some margin.
- Can’t fault the game plan of Paraguay boss Gerardo Martino. He had to play it cautious because he was going up against a far more talented side, and his boys came really close with the offside goal and missed penalty.
- I know they didn’t face the toughest competition, but Paraguay had only conceded once coming into this match, and it was never going to be easy for Spain to break them down.
- You just knew it had to be a Concacaf referee who would order a penalty to be retaken for encroachment into the penalty area. As many have already tweeted, it’s a pedantic call that could be made almost all of the time — even on Oscar Cardozo’s penalty!
- On Nelson Valdez’s first-half offside “goal”: Cardozo challenging for the ball makes him active — at least in my opinion — so I don’t have a problem with the call.
- Iker Casillas is great and all, and I think he’s one of the best keepers in the world, but his handling has been off throughout the tournament. That spill on Lucas Barrios’ late shot could have been a disaster. Fortunately (for him), Casillas made up for it with a big save on Roque Santa Cruz.
- That was the shakiest I’ve seen Gerard Pique in some time. Don’t know what he was thinking when he gave away that penalty.
- Sergio Ramos is a frustrating player at times. He’ll give the ball away cheaply, but he’ll run his socks off on that right flank and make big plays — like that crucial block late in the match that cost him a boot to the face.
- David Villa has now scored five of Spain’s six goals in the tournament.
- Really liked Paraguay left-back Claudio Morel after the Slovakia game, but it’s been all downhill ever since. He was beaten pretty easily several times in 1 v 1 situations today.
- I really felt for Cardozo when he burst into tears at the end of the game. Ol’ Cold Heart Sharman had no sympathy whatsoever in the War Room.
Notes from Kristian
- Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Iker Casillas were superb again. Spain used their world class to get out of jail with Villa’s goal. A joy to watch.
- Credit Vicente Del Bosque for the switch to 4-1-4-1 before the goal.
- Paraguay’s tactics were brilliant. Their forwards got tight on the Spanish defence, and they defended in two banks of four without ball. Gerardo Martino’s men showed tactical adaptability all throughout the tournament.
1. Andres Iniesta
2. David Villa
3. Paulo Da Silva