World Cup 2010: Spain rules over Portugal to meet Paraguay in quarterfinals
Spain beat Portugal 1-0 in a close-fought game in Cape Town on Tuesday. Vincente del Bosque’s side goes on to a quarterfinal date with Paraguay, who beat Japan in a penalty shootout earlier in the day.
The white-hot spotlight was on Cristiano Ronaldo as the star striker led Portugal onto the pitch for Tuesday’s highly anticipated clash with Spain, a place among the World Cup’s final eight at stake.
But after 62 highly entertaining yet scoreless minutes, it was David Villa who delivered the game-winner. Denied with his left foot, he knocked in the rebound with his right to lift Spain to a 1-0 victory in the first World Cup meeting between the Iberian neighbors.
It was Villa’s fourth goal of the tournament, tying him with Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain in the race for the Golden Boot, awarded to the World Cup’s leading scorer. And it was the result of sharp reflexes and pinpoint timing against Portugal’s otherwise brilliant goalkeeper Eduardo, with Villa manipulating the ball like a marionette does a puppet.
Vincente del Bosque’s men now face Paraguay in the quarterfinals, after the South Americans defeated Japan in a penalty shootout earlier on Tuesday.
Spain came out of the blocks in fine attacking form, with Portuguese keeper Eduardo forced to make three saves in the first seven minutes.
The first real chance for the Portuguese came in the 21st minute when combination play between Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao led to Tiago receiving the ball and having a crack at goal from outside the box.
Spanish keeper Iker Casillas palmed the shot up in the air back towards his own goal, but managed to get a fist to the ball to push it to safety under pressure from Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida.
Despite several more attacking opportunities neither team were able to take the lead ahead of the break.
Both teams started the second half at high tempo, exhibiting attacking football. Spain finally cracked the Portuguese defense in the 62nd minute to take the lead after some nifty short passing by Andres Iniesta in the congested Portuguese goal box.
Iniesta fed the ball to Xavi, who deftly flicked a pass on to Villa on the left side of the penalty area. Eduardo managed to block Villa’s first effort, but the ball came back to the Spanish striker to put the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.
The Spanish received their first yellow card of the tournament in the 74th minute, after Xabi Alonso brought down Pedro Mendes.
As the final whistle drew ever closer, Portugal were frustrated as the Spanish kept hold of the ball. Tiago was booked for a foul on David Villa.
At 89 minutes came the only red card of the game, for Portugal’s Ricardo Costa after an off-the-ball challenge on Joan Capdevilla.
With the victory, Spain advances to a quarterfinal against Paraguay, which defeated Japan, 5-3, in a penalty-kick tiebreaker earlier in the day. Portugal heads home “with honor and dignity,” in the words of Coach Carlos Queiroz, having staged one of the more impressive defensive displays of the tournament.