So. This game. I wasn’t going to have much to say about it, really. The first half was a scoreless…well, I won’t go so far as to call it a bore, but it was far from exciting. Paraguay’s defense was pretty strong, and they were managing to have three or more players surround every Spanish player at all times, it seemed. Spain was having trouble with their passing, their communication, their set-ups…basically just having trouble. There were few shots to each side, and even the Paraguay goal called back for offside wasn’t another jump-out-of-your-chair bad call moment. The replay showed maybe it was a wrong call, but it was close and wasn’t even argued much. (The offside call seemed to be against Nelson Valdez, who looked onside, but further commentary says it was against Oscar Cardozo, who was offside.) When the second half began, it was more of the same for about the first 14 minutes.
THEN SOME PENALTY KICK STUFF HAPPENED.
Keep in mind, this all occurred within the space of about three minutes, and if you’ll pardon my French and a Gwen Stefani reference, this shit was bananas. Gerard Pique got a yellow card for fouling Cardozo in the area, and Paraguay gets a penalty kick in the 59th minute. Torment for Spain. Cardozo takes the shot himself and it’s saved by Iker Casillas. Torment for Paraguay. Then less than a minute later down at the other end of the pitch, David Villa is fouled by Antonin Alcaraz in the area, Alcaraz gets a yellow and Spain gets a penalty kick. More torment for Paraguay. Xabi Alonso steps up to take it and buries it…and the ref calls for a retake due to encroachment. More torment for Spain. Alonso takes it again and this time keeper Justo Villar saves it. Even more torment. In the process of knocking it away, he grabs at Cesc Fabregas’ ankles and I concur with announcer John Harkes’ assessment that it maybe should have been another penalty call. THEN Paulo Da Silva had to make a save on the line after Sergio Ramos takes a shot from the side. TORMENT EVERYWHERE ALL AROUND.
Finally regular play resumed and it seemed to settle a bit, and I found myself hoping for a goal – for either side – simply to keep the match from going into extra time. David Villa, perhaps sensing my prayers, finally said “Okay FINE GUYS I’ll take care of things again”, and after Pedro’s shot hit off the post, Villa collected the rebound and banked it off both posts as he put Spain in the lead with less than ten minutes to go. Casillas made a couple additional strong saves in the final moments and Spain are now off to the semifinals to meet Germany, where they will need a lot more than mediocre midfield work, wacky penalty kick sequences, and a single late goal to make it to the final. They’ve got four days to come up with something better.