World Cup News – The final four
Villa puts shaky Spain into last four
Second ranked Spain overcame a determined challenge from 31st ranked Paraguay to progress to the semi-finals of the 2010 Fifa World Cup with a narrow 1-0 victory over the South Americans at Ellis Park on Saturday. It was the first time that Spain have reached the last four of the World Cup since 1950.
In a match of high drama in which both sides squandered penalty kicks, Spain once agained relied on the goal-scoring prowess of striker David Villa (pictured) to secure victory. The 28-year-old Villa scored his fifth goal of the tournament in the 83rd minute to book his side a place in the semi-finals and give them a chance of winning the World Cup for the first time ever.
The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for Paraguay who really strecthed Spain in this encounter, making them fight tooth and nail for the victory and nearly pushing the game into extra time. The South Americans were clearly not intimidated by their highly ranked opponents, nullifying Spain’s talented strike force and creating chances of their own through strikers Oscar Cardozo and Nelson Valdez.
Paraguay’s manager Gerardo Martino was proud of what his team had produced on the field but was frustrated at the lack of a favourable result. “We gave our all, we had opportunities, but unfortunately Spain converted and Paraguay didn’t,” said Martino. “We didn’t have luck with us. It was a game we could have won. Now we have to resign ourselves to this tough blow,” he addded.
Before Villa’s match winner, the game appeared destined to head into extra time after both teams had missed penalty kicks in a sudden flurry of activity early in the second period. First, referee Carlos Batres ruled Spain defender Gerard Pique had pulled down Cardozo in the penalty area. The lanky striker then fired his spot kick low to the left of Iker Casillas but Spain’s captain and ‘keeper went the right way and neatly pouched Cardozo’s effort.
And then, just seconds later at the other end, Spain were awarded a penalty kick when Villa took a tumble after a challenge from Antolin Alcaraz. Xabi Alonso put his shot into the back of the net but Batres made him retake the kick after players from both sides encroached. Alonso blasted his next attempt low to Justo Villar’s left but the Paraguay ‘keeper succeeded in parrying the ball away. Substitute Cesc Fabregas desparately tried to make contact with the loose ball and appeared to be brought down by Villar, but Batres awarded a corner instead.
With the clock winding down and both sides giving it their all in search of a late winner, Spain substitute Pedro struck the post following a sniping run by Andres Iniesta. The ever vigilant Villa collected the rebound and unleashed a right-foot shot that went into the net after remarkably hitting both posts.
The final whistle brought jubilation for Spain’s players who flocked towards their skipper Casillas while Paraguay’s Cardozo burst into tears in the centre. “I’d like to congratulate Paraguay on playing a very serious game,” said Casillas. “Maybe being honest, this wasn’t one of our best performances,” he added.
Indeed, Spain will have to play a lot better if they hope to beat Germany in Durban on Wednesday evening. Casillas’ men lacked fluency in their passing and precision in crossing against Paraguay – two areas in which they will have to improve considerably before facing the awesome Germans who crushed Argentina in their quarter-final encounter just hours earlier.
“Germany have played a brilliant World Cup so far,” said Iniesta. They must be tremendously motivated and we are also at the top of our game. It is going to be a beautiful battle,” he added.
Germany one step Klose to World Cup glory
Germany stormed into the semi-finals of the World Cup when they thumped a lacklustre Argentina 4-0 with a dazzling display of attacking football in Cape Town on Saturday. Miroslav Klose (pictured) scored a brace while Thomas Mueller and defender Arne Friedrich added a goal each to send Diego Maradona’ outfit packing.
“It’s insane to beat Argentina 4-0,” said Mueller. It’s hard to find the words for a result like that. I think Germany is quaking right now and that’s the right way to celebrate this,” he added. Man-of-the-match Bastian Schweinsteiger remarked: “That gives you goose bumps seeing the way people are celebrating at home. We may have to play Spain next – they’re the best team in the world, in my view. But we’re good enough, we believe in ourselves.”
“We did everything nearly perfectly,” said German coach Joachim Loew praising the defence for shutting down Fifa World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. “What the team showed today in terms of determination to win was the sort you would expect from champions, also the ambition they showed, the speed and attacking tempo we showed in the second half, it was absolute class,” he added.
Sixth ranked Germany got off to the perfect start when midfielder Mueller bagged his fourth goal of the tournament, heading in a curled Schweinsteiger free kick after only three minutes. Buoyed by their early success the Germans began surging forward, eager to add more goals and put daylight between them and the seventh ranked South Americans. However, although they came close to scoring through efforts from Sami Khedira and Klose, the Argentina defence held firm for the rest of the half.
Germany, who defeated Argentina on penalties at the same stage of the tournament in 2006, employed a different strategy in the second half, allowing their opponents to come forward and responding with rapid counter-attacks. The Argentines searched desperately for an equaliser but their long range efforts were unsuccessful.
Worse was to come for the South Americans in the 68th minute when Klose doubled the German lead after Lukas Podolski produced a perfect pass from the left and the striker made no mistake from close range. Friedrich scored Germany’s third goal in the 74th minute, finishing from a metre out after Schweinsteiger’s cross and Klose rounded off the scoring a minute from time when he volleyed home a cross from Mesut Ozil.
“We just had a bad game. If you make mistakes like that, you go home,” Argentine forward Carlos Tevez said. “We knew they could be dangerous on set-pieces and on the counter-attack,” he added.
Meanwhile, in other World Cup quarter-final matches played on Friday, 16th ranked Uruguay defeated 32nd ranked Ghana 4-2 on penalties after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 after extra time while fourth ranked Holland upset tournament favourites and top ranked Brazil 2-1 in the earlier game. Uruguay and Holland will now face each other in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Uruguay did not deserve their victory against the Ghanians who outplayed them for large periods of the match. The Africans were denied a winner in the dying seconds when Uruguay forward Luis Suarez delibrately handled the ball on the goal line. Although Suarez was immediately red carded, his unsportmanslike conduct had given his team a lifeline. Instead of being 2-1 down Uruguay were still very much in the game at 1-1 and when Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty kick the match went to a shootout.
Uruguay made the most of Gyan’s unfortunate miss to progress with Fernando Muslera saving two of Ghana’s penalties before a clever chipped spot kick from Sebastian Abreu (pictured) sealed the win for the South Americans. Uruguay arrogantly celebrated their win with wild scenes of jubilation while Gyan broke down and wept.
The match highlighted a glaring fault in the beautiful game that should be corrected with a law change, preferably with immediate effect. As with rugby’s penalty try, a law should be passed awarding an automatic goal to the attacking team in a situation where a goal was certain to be scored had it not been for an opposing player’s delibrate handling of the ball.
If such a law is implemented it will make it impossible for what happened at Soccer City on Friday evening to ever be repeated on a football pitch. Suarez’s actions amounted to little more than cheating and killed off the dreams of an entire continent who were hoping that Ghana would be the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals.
Wesley Sneijder (pictured) netted two goals for Holland to earn them their win over five times champions Brazil who faded badly after an excellent opening half in which they dominated proceedings. Sneijder’s strikes in the 53rd and 68th minutes were enough to book the Dutch a place in the semi-finals and a meeting with Uruguay.
It was a shocking loss for the Samba Kings who failed to repeat their first half performance after taking the lead courtesy of a 10th minute strike from Robinho. Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk praised his players’ resolve and reiterated his belief that his team are genuine candidates to lift the World Cup.
“Two years ago I said we have a mission to come here to become world champion. You have to believe in something completely,” said Marwijk. “I think you could see all that we have. For 45 minutes we went full throttle and we were rewarded for it,” he added.