JOHANNESBURG – Tension captured the air as Spanish and Paraguayan fans watched their teams miss dramatic back-to-back penalty kicks that changed the face of the final game of the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals Saturday night.
The previous 57 minutes held little excitement for fans, as both teams remained deadlocked before an onrush of offense brought sudden life into the contest at historic Ellis Park Stadium.
After the dust settled, Spanish forward David Villa hit the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute against South American rival Paraguay, leaving a final score of 1-0.
“We had all sorts of problems in this match; we knew it would be very tough because Paraguay has been playing well throughout the entire World Cup,” Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta told reporters. “They made life difficult for all their opponents, and this match was decided with one quick move.”
Villa’s goal came off a rebound of a blocked attempt by Iniesta. The midfielder’s goal ricocheted off both goalposts before settling in the net, securing Spain’s victory. The goal was Villa’s fifth in five games, placing him atop the leader board for individual goals scored at the Cup.
The penalty-kick drama in the 57th minute was triggered when Spanish defender Gerard Pique received a yellow card for wrestling Paraguayan forward Oscar Cardozo to the ground. Cardozo took the resulting spot kick, but his scoring attempt was blocked by Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas diving to his left.
Less than a minute later, a yellow card was given to Paraguayan defender Alcaraz for overly aggressive play toward Villa, after the Spaniard’s darting run into the penalty area. Xabi Alonso calmly slotted the penalty kick, but his attempt disallowed because at least three Spanish players rushed into the penalty area before the shot was taken. Spain’s second shot was blocked and put back into play by goalkeeper Justo Villar.
There were a few teasingly close scoring chances for both sides throughout the game, as Spain barely missed the Paraguayan net and Paraguay briefly celebrated what was quickly deemed an offside goal five minutes before the half.
Paraguay’s strong defense, led by Antolín Alcaraz and Paulo da Silva, kept a tight rein on Spain’s offense, allowing both teams to leave the field at halftime scoreless.
Iniesta, voted man of the match, was focused on Wednesday’s semifinal matchup in Durban against Germany, which defeated Argentina earlier Saturday.
“It must be a tremendous motivation for them, but we too are at the top of our game,” Iniesta said. “We’re keen to progress further; it will be a match between two teams that like to keep the ball, and I think it will be a great match.”