Spain Beats Portugal 1-0 to Reach World Cup Quarterfinal Against Paraguay

European champion Spain beat Portugal 1-0 to advance to a World Cup quarterfinal against Paraguay, which ousted Japan 5-3 in the tournament’s first penalty shootout.

David Villa scored in the 63rd minute in Cape Town last night to become joint top-scorer at the event with four goals in four games. Portugal had Ricardo Costa red-carded in the 88th minute after he fouled Joan Capdevila.

Spain, one of the pre-tournament favorites, is seeking its first World Cup title after shrugging off an underachiever tag by winning the 2008 European Championship. It lost its opening game 1-0 against Switzerland.

“This is the best Spain played since the World Cup started,” Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez said in a televised interview.

Villa scooped the ball over Eduardo into the net after the Portugal goalkeeper parried his first effort, which was set up by Xavi’s back-heeled pass.

“That’s what he lives for,” Xavi said of Villa, who joins Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain and Slovakia’s Robert Vittek atop the goal-scoring list. “He smells out goals.”

Today and tomorrow are the first rest days of the monthlong tournament. The quarterfinals begin July 2 with the Netherlands facing Brazil in Port Elizabeth and Uruguay taking on Ghana in Johannesburg.

Casillas Busy

In the first half, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas worked to keep the game scoreless. He parried a shot by Tiago after 20 minutes and then punched away the ball on the goal-line under pressure from Hugo Almeida.

Casillas spilled a 25-yard free kick by Cristiano Ronaldo, although Gerard Pique cleared with a header. Just before halftime, the Spain goalkeeper ran 30 yards off his line to cut out a pass to Simao.

Fernando Llorente, a substitute for Fernando Torres, helped Spain improve its performance. The 6-foot-4 Athletic Bilbao striker’s diving header was kept out by Eduardo a minute after he entered in the 58th minute. He directed another header just wide with three minutes remaining.

Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz said Spain deserved to win, adding his players performed “with enormous dignity.”

“I really believe Portuguese fans have more than enough reason to be very proud,” he told reporters. “Spain moved the ball extremely well and had a good portion of possession. Whoever does this will control the game.”

Paraguay Shootout

Paraguay made all five of its shootout attempts in Pretoria to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in eight attempts since the inaugural 1930 tournament. The game had ended 0-0 after 120 minutes including extra time.

Yuichi Komano hit the bar with the third of Japan’s four shootout kicks and Oscar Cardozo stroked in his team’s fifth kick to send Paraguay through. It was the first shootout of the 2010 World Cup.

“We’re not trying to rewrite a page of history but we are among the best eight nations in the world and we’re celebrating that,” Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino told a news conference.

Edgar Barreto, Lucas Barrios and Cristian Riveros all scored spot kicks for Paraguay with Yasuhito Endo and Makoto Hasebe converting for Japan. Komano then missed and Nelson Valdez made his kick to give Paraguay a 4-2 lead.

After Keisuke Honda converted to make it 4-3, Cardozo sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to end the shootout.

“That was the worst few hours of my life,” Japan coach Takeshi Okada told reporters. “In terms of how we played I have no regrets at all. The players were wonderful, really wonderful.”

Broke Free

In the first half, Paraguay’s Barrios broke free in the penalty area and his shot was saved by goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. Daisuke Matsui hit the bar less than a minute later, and Honda and Paraguay’s Roque Santa Cruz both shot wide before halftime.

Kaswashima stopped Riveros’s header in the second half and Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar easily dealt with Japan’s attempts as the game headed to extra time.

Kawashima caught a header from Barrios in the first extra period, then came out to block a shot from Valdez. Neither team came close to scoring in the final 15 minutes.

“We’ve taken another step forward, but we’ve not achieved our goals yet,” added Paraguay coach Martino, whose team faces Spain on July 3 in Johannesburg. “Let’s hope we can recover quickly.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at aduff4@bloomberg.net; Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.