Spain is one step closer to claiming their first World Cup title as a David Villa goal in the 83rd minute coupled with a tremendous penalty kick save by Iker Casillas gave Spain a 1-0 win over Paraguay and a date with Germany in Wednesday’s semi-final.
The game opened in a conservative style with the Paraguayans allowing the Spaniards little space to operate their effective passing game.
Controversy once again ensued in the 41st minute as a crossed ball fell to Paraguayan forward Nelson Valdez who promptly shot it inside the net and began to celebrate only to see the offside flag raised. Replays show striking partner Oscar Cardozo being offside but Valdez onside, though the view for the linesman was obstructed.
The second half was much more eventful, particularly a five minute period.
In the 57th minute Spain defender Gerard Pique held onto one of Cardozo’s arms in the penalty area with both hands dragging him down as the ball was crossed in and Paraguay was rightly granted a penalty shot and Pique given a yellow card.
A nervous Cardozo stepped up to take the kick and fired it low and to the right where Casillas quickly stopped and held the ball to keep Spanish hopes alive.
Only three minutes later it would be Spain that would get their chance to take the lead from a spot kick. Spanish forward David Villa ran into the penalty area and was seemingly brought down by Paraguayan defender Antolin Alcaraz. Their seemed to be minimal contact but the penalty was indeed given.
Xabi Alonso was given the task to put Spain ahead and he seemingly had as he fired the spot kick past Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar but Alonso was forced to take the kick again thanks to encroachment in the penalty area by Spanish players.
Alonso stepped up one once again but this time had his shot saved by Villar who allowed a large rebound and was lucky not to concede another penalty after tripping Cesc Fabregas who was trying to reach the ball.
The game settled down and extra-time seemed to be looming until a piece of Spanish magic undid the Paraguayans in the 83rd minute. Andres Iniesta dribbled by two players and into the Paraguayan area, he then found substitute Pedro Rodriguez who struck the ball off the left post and out but the ball fell right onto the path of Villa who made no mistake and fired the ball off the right post and in.
It was Villa’s fifth goal of the tournament and a huge lift to Spanish hopes.
Paraguay’s Roque Santa Cruz had a great opportunity in the 90th minute to tie the game but was stopped by the marvelous Casillas.
Cardozo was left in tears and inconsolable at the final whistle while Villa celebrated proudly. A rematch of the Euro 2008 final is now in the cards after the Germans disposed of Argentina 4-0 in the earlier quarter-final.