For Spain it’s a Case of Better Late Than Never

6 07 2010

Spain 1-0 Paraguay

This wasn’t the usual performance from the well-oiled Spanish machine. This wasn’t an opponent expected to reach this stage. Regardless, Spain played Paraguay in a quarterfinal that people will be talking about for some time.

Paraguay was playing in its first ever World Cup quarterfinal, but didn’t let the occasion overwhelm them as they ran Spain ragged. The South Americans did everything but score, although if you ask some spectators, viewers and pundits they would say otherwise when in the 41st minute Nelson Valdez thought he’d given Paraguay the lead only to be called back for offside when replays showed that was not necessarily the case.

As the game was approaching the hour mark it was as though the events were taken over by a scriptwriter. While Paraguay was taking its first corner kick Oscar Cardozo’s arm was tugged until he was brought down in the box by Gerard Pique and the ref pointed to the spot without hesitation. Cardozo stepped up to take the kick and Iker Casillas in the Spanish net guessed the right way and made the save. A slightly dodgy offside call and a rare penalty save. Forces were conspiring to keep this game scoreless.

You might think I’ve lost the plot a bit talking about a conspiracy, but consider what happened with in two minutes on the ensuing counterattack. David Villa was brought down by Antolin Alcaraz in the box (barely, but he was tackled) for a Spanish penalty. Xabi Alonso took his place at the spot and dually hit it home, but no. Pique was thought to have encroached the area before the penalty and a re-take was ordered.  Alonso regrouped, stepped up again and it was Justo Villar’s turn to guess the right way and make the save. Unbelievably we had two penalty saves, a penalty ordered re-taken and that dubious offside. Maybe I’m not crazy thinking it’s some kind of conspiracy. Under half an hour to play and Paraguay was still very much alive.

It wasn’t until the 83rd minute that we got to see the Spanish attack we had seen before and expected to see again. Andres Iniesta delivered a beautiful cross off the side of his foot to a wide-open Pedro who hammered his shot clear off the post. The rebound came right back to David Villa who also nailed the post and saw his shot bounce off the opposite post before crossing the line. It wasn’t easy, but it was a goal. That it would come so late and in those circumstances was a surprise. That the goal was scored by Villa isn’t a surprise at all.

It wasn’t pretty and now Spain has a semifinal date with Germany who won’t let the Spaniards get away with a performance like that. Paraguay goes home and now the South American juggernaut is down to Uruguay. As the knockout stage has evolved, Europe has shifted the balance of power in the tourney. Lets see what the scriptwriters come up with in the semis.




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