Saturday, July 03, 2010

World Cup 2010 Game 60: Spain 1, Paraguay 0

Immovable object, meet irresistible force.

Paraguay had given up a total of 1 goal in this World Cup, and no team had scored in the last four games.

Spain had the most offensive, attack minded squad of the World Cup and had, in its last game, figured out a way to crack a Portugal defense that had also not given up a World Cup goal.

In a World Cup of bizarre referring blunders, goalkeeper errors, last minute goals and extra-time handballs, what else was left? How about two saved penalty kicks and yet another disallowed goal.

The key sequence started with a Paraguayan being pulled down in the box on a set piece--somewhere Michael Bradley must be thinking, "I knew that was a foul"--getting a penalty kick which was saved by the goalkeeper. Video shows three players inside the box when the ball is struck, a clear violation that was not called. Spain immediately broke on a counter attack and when their striker was tripped moving towards the goal, the referee awarded a penalty kick to Spain but inexplicably gave only a yellow card to the defender (a foul to stop a clear goal scoring opportunity is supposed to be an automatic ejection). Spain buried the penalty kick and was finally on the board against the stingy Paraguayan defen...

Not so fast. The referee waved off the goal, claiming a violation...that Spain had put people inside the box to rush a possible rebound. He made them to the penalty kick again, and this time, amazingly, the goalkeeper stopped the kick. Yet the referee nightmare was not yet over. As is common on a penalty kick, several players are rushing the box to try to get a rebound. The goalkeeper pretty much tackled one Spanish player to stop him from getting the rebound, yet this was not called a penalty nor even a foul and Paraguay had dodged its bullet.

If ever a game seemed destined for penalty kicks, this one was it. But Spain kept pressing forward and around the 80th minute had a clear shot that beat the goalie and...deflected off the post! David Villa took the rebound and curved a shot to the far post which again hit the post but this time spun bounce in.

Spain now moves forward for a match with Germany. It has plenty of practice with teams playing defensive minded soccer, but now they get a team that has put the ball in the net 13 times this World Cup, a feat Spain has accomplished only six times. Yet because of Germany's pressing attack, Spain may find more room to operate and the semi-final could be an up and down, more open game that suits the Spanish well. In the end, the question may be how good is the Spanish defense?

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