Latest World Cup News – the last eight
Lethal Villa puts Spain into last eight
A 63rd minute strike by striker David Villa (pictured) was sufficient to earn Spain a 1-0 victory over neighbours Portugal and a World Cup quarter-final berth after an intriguing match at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town yesterday. Villa scored the winner when he stabbed the ball into the net after his first shot was blocked by Portugal ‘keeper Eduardo.
“We felt comfortable but you have to be careful because things can change quickly,” said Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque. “We know we’re working well, we want to create a bit of history,” he added. Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz remarked: “Spain were much more effective moving the ball around. We were looking for chances on the counter-attack. We had our chances – we just didn’t score. We’ll have to come back stronger.”
Spain made a positive start to the match, dominating possession in the early going, with forwards Fernando Torres and Villa forcing Eduardo to parry three long range shots from the left wing in the opening seven minutes. Portugal right back Ricardo Costa began to settle down after a shaky start but his team still battled to retain possession. The Spanish, however, did not capitilise on their advantage, rarely able to launch a useful ball into the box.
Portugal’s first scoring opportunity came on 20 minutes. After a good passage of play from hard working left back Fabio Coentrao, Tiago’s shot was punched skywards by Iker Casillas and the Spain ‘keeper did well to beat the lanky Hugo Almeida to the ball as it came down.
Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo nearly scored a superb goal with a powerful, swerving free-kick from almost 40 metres that struck a bemused Casillas in the chest and arms and flew to safety. Queiroz’s team almost grabbed the lead five minutes after the interval, when Almeida’s cross deflected off Carles Puyol’s knee and flew just wide of the Spanish post.
Substitute Fernando Llorente, who had only been on the field for two minutes, nearly scored for Spain but his flying header from a Sergio Ramos cross was kept out by the supple Eduardo. Spain came close once more just minutes later when Villa fired a curling shot just wide of the post, but he was not to be denied when he bagged his fourth goal of the tournament with his next effort.
Portugal needed to respond immediately if they were to have any realistic hopes of equalising and forcing extra time, but failed to do so giving Spain a deserved victory and a quarter-final berth with Paraguay at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday. Kick-off at 8.30pm.
Paraguay edge Japan on penalties to reach quarters
A missed penalty kick from Yuichi Komano proved to be the difference between Paraguay and Japan in their World Cup last 16 clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria Accommodation yesterday. Komana struck the crossbar with his team’s third spot kick as Paraguay held their nerve to beat the Asian side 5-3 on penalties after the teams were deadlocked 0-0 at full time.
Komano’s failed attempt was the only spot kick missed in the first penalty shootout of the tournament and resulted in Paraguay reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time ever. “God was on our side. Now we want more,” said Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino, who was in tears at the end of the nailbiting shootout.
“Thank God we got through, Paraguay have never gone so far,” said striker Oscar Cardozo (pictured), who scored his team’s winning penalty. “We are all very happy, me because I scored the penalty and got it in, thank God. It was a very difficult match because Japan too have very good players,” he added.
Although the South Americans had enjoyed more possession during the match they failed to convert this advantage into goals as both sides produced relatively few clear goal scoring opportunities. After a dull opening 20 minutes the game sparked to life when ‘keeper Eiji Kawashima denied Lucas Barrios with his knee and Daisuke Matsui struck the Paraguay crossbar with a swerving 25-metre effort.
Paraguay threatened to get on the scoreboard 10 minutes into the second half when Edgar Benitez made a foray into the left side of the penalty area, but his shot was deflected wide by Yuji Nakazawa. Japan, who had looked so good against Denmark in their final group game, battled to retain possession in the second half and seemed clueless as to how to penetrate their opponent’s defence.
With the teams deadlocked at 0-0 after 90 minutes the match went into extra time, and although the 45th ranked Japanese made a bright start with Yoshito Okubo threatening with a strong run from deep in his own half, it was to no avail as the Paraguay defence held firm.
The South Americans almost broke the deadlock seven minutes into extra time when Claudio Morel offloaded to Valdez in the box but ‘keeper Kawashima was up to the task and blocked the substitute’s effort. Paraguay’s Edgar Barreto had an excellent opportunity to score just moments later when the ball fell at his feet in the penalty area, but he only succeeded in flicking the ball over the bar.
With extra time concluded and the score still 0-0, the match went to penalties and it was the 31st ranked South Americans who proved to have the stronger resolve as they shot their way into the last eight.
Samba Kings turn up the heat to send Chile packing
Top-ranked Brazil sounded an ominnous warning to all their rivals at the World Cup when they comfortably defeated 18th ranked Chile 3-0 in Johannesburg on Monday to power their way into the quarter-finals. The Samba Kings showed their class as they overwhelmed the Chileans with some superb football to set up a mouth-watering clash with Holland on Friday.
Brazil coach Dunga has come in for some heavy criticism for curtailing some of his team’s traditional attacking flair in favour of a more structured approach, but the Brazilians produced an impressive combination of both on a cold evening at Ellis Park. “We just had to come across Brazil as early as the second round. They’re the best team in the world,” said Chile’s captain and ‘keeper Claudio Bravo after being on the receiving end of Brazil’s best performance of the World Cup to date.
Having suffered seven consecutive defeats to Brazil coming into this match, the Chileans nevertheless tried to make a fight of it, surging forward in numbers at every opportunity in an evenly-matched opening 30 minutes. Brazil’s playmaker Kaka was booked for bringing down Arturo Vidal and his team’s attacks were largely thwarted by some tight Chilean defending.
However, things started to go pear-shaped for Chile when Brazil defender Juan outjumped their defence to head home Maicon’s corner in the 34th minute. The goal seemed to spark the Samba Kings into action and it was one way traffic from then on as Chile began to come apart at the seams.
Brazil went 2-0 up four minutes later when Robinho cut in from the left to offload to former world player of the year Kaka, who pierced Chile’s defence to put Luis Fabiano on goal. The in-form striker rounded Bravo to notch up his third goal of the World Cup and put the Brazilians in a commanding position.
Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa went for broke after the interval, replacing centre back Pablo Contreras with midfielder Rodrigo Tello. However, the move failed to curtail Brazil’s dominance and after 59 minutes Ramires cut through the Chilean midfield and fed Robinho (pictured), who curled a delightful shot past Bravo to make it 3-0 and seal the win.
To their credit Chile kept on attacking, but although Bielsa’s team created some chances, the Brazilian defence held firm. “Brazil’s superiority was too much for us and we were unable to slow them down,” remarked Bielsa after the game. Despite Brazil’s impressive win, ever-serious coach Dunga was not over confident.
“We have to improve in all sectors of our play,” explained Dunga. “Chile played exceptionally well with a lot of possession and they passed very well but we were able to maintain a balanced control,” he added. Dunga’s cautionary approach is no doubt justified as Brazil will have to be in top form to cope with a Holland outfit bristling with as much attacking prowess as their own.
Brazil face the Dutch at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday. Kick-off is at 4pm.
Robben’s wizardry sinks plucky Slovakia
Arjen Robben (pictured) produced some sparkling football to help fourth ranked Holland overcome a spirited Slovakia side and advance to the World Cup quarter-finals with a convincing 2-1 victory at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Monday.
Robben fired in a solo effort on 18 minutes to give Holland the lead before Wesley Sneijder sealed the win six minutes from the end. Robert Vittek pulled one back for Slovakia seconds from full time with a penalty, but it was merely a consolation as the Dutch advanced to a last eight meeting with Brazil on Friday.
“That was nice today. If you’re at the World Cup it should be fun. We didn’t play our best match today but the important thing is that we advanced,” said Robben, adding he has not yet reached top form just three weeks after a hamstring injury forced him to miss all of his team’s group matches.
“For me personally it was a great experience to be back on the pitch again from the first minute and to be decisive for the team. It is a great feeling if you can do it in the first game, straight away,” explained the 26-year-old winger.
Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss said Robben was the difference between the two sides. “We were preparing for three days for Robben, for his way of playing, but he is an absolute genius,” exclaimed Weiss. When I saw him in the Dutch lineup I knew he would make it 50 per cent stronger and I was correct,” he added.
Robben was indeed an inspiration to a Holland outfit who had struggled to carve out wins over Denmark, Japan and Cameroon in their group matches. He netted the opening goal when Sneijder’s clever long ball gave him space to attack and he charged towards goal before beating two defenders and smashing a left-footed shot past ‘keeper Jan Mucha.
Slovakia had some excellent opportunities to score, but Miroslav Stoch and Vittek were denied by some excellent ’keeping from Maarten Stekelenburg in the Dutch goal. The game was over as a contest in the 84th minute when, after a hastily taken free kick, Dirk Kuyt beat Mucha to the ball and offloaded to Sneijder who poked the ball into a vacant net.
Slovakia got their consolation goal in the third-minute of injury time when Stekelenburg brought down Martin Jakubko and Vittek calmly slotted the penalty. Despite their convincing victory, Robben feels that Holland will have to improve if they want to beat Brazil on Friday. “We’ll have to play better than today,” he simply said.