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Villa's late goal pushes Spain past Paraguay

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 07:12 AM
JOHANNESBURG -

Spain found just enough of the beautiful game - and a touch of good luck - to advance to the World Cup semifinals, beating Paraguay 1-0 on Saturday.

David Villa took the tournament scoring lead with his fifth goal, which banked in off both posts in the 83rd minute. The goal finished off a brilliant, three-way passing combination that typifies the way the European champions like to play. It sent Spain into the World Cup's final four for the first time in 60 years.

"The post wanted it to go in," Villa said.

Spain faces Germany on Wednesday in Durban - a reprise of its 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final.

"Every game is different," Villa added. "I'm sure Germany isn't happy we got through."

One night after penalty kicks decided Uruguay's shootout win against Ghana, they were critical in Spain's victory.

A somewhat subdued match suddenly became chaotic in a two-minute span of the second half. Gerard Pique pulled down Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo in the penalty area on a corner kick, earning a yellow card and giving Cardozo a penalty kick.

With the vuvuzelas reaching a crescendo, the striker who ended his team's shootout win against Japan was denied brilliantly this time by Iker Casillas, who dived left to block Cardozo's low kick.

Seconds later, Villa broke free behind the defense and was hauled down by Antolin Alcoraz, who drew a yellow card. Xabi Alonso went to the penalty spot and sent a wicked drive into the net.

Again, the stadium rocked, but referee Carlos Batres of Guatemala waved off the goal, saying a Spain player entered the area too soon.

Given a second chance, keeper Justo Villar guessed correctly, diving left to stop the penalty kick. He also knocked the rebound away from Cesc Fabregas before defender Paulo Da Silva made a leg save at the goal line on another shot by Sergio Ramos.

"It was our hardest game yet," Villa said. "The rival pressured us a lot and were on top of our every touch, which didn't allow us to circulate the ball."

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