Spain, Paraguay move on
Paraguay needed a penalty shootout—the first of the tournament—to get past Japan after a drab and scoreless draw in the final day of Round of 16 matches.
Meanwhile, FIFA President Sepp Blatter was forced to concede that the organization should reopen the debate on the use of technology after some spectacular blunders from a Uruguayan and Italian referee, who paid for their mistakes by being sent home early.
And there was more bad news for world football’s governing body after the South African police said it was launching an investigation into a break-in at their World Cup headquarters in Johannesburg.
The World Cup now steps up a gear with some tantalizing quarterfinals: Netherlands vs. Brazil and Uruguay vs. Ghana on Friday, and Argentina vs. Germany and Paraguay vs. Spain on Saturday.
In Cape Town, Spain beat Portugal at the Green Point stadium to send superstar Cristiano Ronaldo home.
Villa joined top scorers Robert Vittek of Slovakia and Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain on four goals with his 63rd-minute strike from a delightful assist from Man of the Match Xavi.
An exciting match saw Spain produce the most chances, and Ricardo Costa was sent off for elbowing Joan Capdevila with one minute left as the European Champions held on to knock-out a Portugal side who had conceded no goals prior to Tuesday’s game.
Spain is now a clear favorite to reach the semifinals with Paraguay, their next opponents.
“We have been training together now for more than 30 days, and I think these players want to make history,” said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.
Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz was sporting in defeat.
“Bearing in mind the number of opportunities the Spanish team had ... I think that Spain’s victory is justified, and I would like to congratulate Spain once again,” Queiroz said.
Earlier Tuesday, Paraguay won 5-3 on penalty kicks after both teams failed to score over 120 minutes at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.
Yuichi Komano hit the bar with his kick, and Oscar Cardozo stepped up to convert the winning penalty.
Meanwhile, Blatter apologized for the refereeing blunders that marred Sunday’s Round of 16 matches between England and Germany and between Mexico and Argentina.
Blatter also said it was time to reopen the debate on using technology such as instant replays. “It would be absurd to not consider the option,” he said.
The first talks will be held by members of the International Football Association Boards (IFAB) in Cardiff, Wales, in July.
“I expressed our apologies to the two delegations affected by the evident mistakes (England and Mexico),” Blatter added on the day both referees involved, Jorge Larrionda and Roberto Rosetti, were sent home as FIFA retained just 19 of its 29 refereeing trios for the quarter-final stage.
It was a busy day for football’s governing body with the police launching an investigation into a break-in at their World Cup headquarters in Johannesburg.
“Seven World Cup trophy replicas and two sweaters were stolen from the office,” said General Bheki Cele, National Commissioner of the South African Police Service.