David Villa snatched a late winner to book Spain’s first appearance in a World Cup semi-final as they beat Paraguay in a largely disappointing quarter-final tie that didn’t live up to recent expectations.Spain have hurdled through recent challenges and seem to have just the right amount of resistance to cope with their opponents but will have to do more than that against Germanay.Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque name an unchanged starting XI, despite pressure to remove the mis-firing Fernando Torres. Chile, meanwhile, made six changes to the team which beat Japan on penalties. Among those alterations, forward trio Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios and Edgar Benitez all dropped to the bench.In truth, it was a brief flurry of excitement that was largely out of kilter during a game that saw relatively few other opportunities.
Spain may have reached a World Cup semi-final for the first time – their fourth place in 1950 was after a round-robin stage – but they will surely need to improve if they are to defeat in-form Germany in Durban on Wednesday.
Their famed passing game was largely absent, while the out-of-form Fernando Torres was withdrawn after 56 minutes.Paraguay won a penalty when Gerard Pique pulled down Cardozo in the area. The central defender was rightly booked for the misdemeanour before Cardozo dusted himself to take the spot-kick, only to see the strike saved by Casillas – although no re-take was awarded despite obvious encroachment from Spanish players.Almost immediately up the other end, referee Carlos Batres again pointed to the spot, this time for a foul committed by Alcaraz on Villa, with the former arguably lucky to only be booked and not dismissed for seemingly denying the latter a goalscoring opportunity. Xabi Alonso stepped up and slotted in, but, ironically, the official this time wanted a re-take for marginal encroachment.
Alonso trotted up once more but Villar denied him. The goalkeeper dove to his left to parry and the ball spilled in the penalty area. Fabregas aimed to fire in the rebound but he was wiped out by Villar before the ball finally was removed from danger. The referee, however, staggeringly saw nothing wrong with the challenge on Fabregas.
Villa’s goal after 82 minutes – his fifth of the tournament- struck one post, rolled across the goal-line and hit the other, before finally nestling in the net and came seconds after substitute Pedro had also hit the woodwork.Villa is really establishing himself especially having just switched to the Spanish Giants Barcelona with a big price tag. Spain 1 Paraguay 0