Paraguay gatecrash World Cup party

2010-06-29 17:45

Paraguay 0

Japan 0

Paraguay won 5-3 on penalties


Paraguay joined the South American party in South Africa today

after Japanese defender Yuichi Komano crashed his penalty kick against the

crossbar.

With no other misses from the spot, substitute Oscar Cardozo’s calm

conversion meant that Paraguay became the fourth South American team among the

last eight standing in the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

After what became the first last 16 game to yield no goals – even

with an extra 30 minutes – Paraguay joined Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in the

quarter-final.

The rest of the world’s best eight football countries are drawn

from Africa (Ghana) and Europe (Germany and Netherlands), while Spain and

Portugal will clash later to determine a third European side to make the

cut.

The winner between Spain and Portugal will meet Paraguay.

After only returning home with a second-round finish to boast about

in the 1998 and 2002 tournaments – in addition to a similar feat in 1986 –

Paraguay got it right this time.

Japan, who used an unchanged line-up for their four games,

qualified for the last three World Cups, but never made it beyond the second

round (2002).

Though it was not pretty, it was a result welcomed by the

Paraguayan squad, which is undergoing renovation following the retirement of key

players.

Their joy could stems from the fact that they have something to

show for qualifying by reaching first place in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, with

their campaign comprising victories over Argentina (1-0), Brazil (2-0) and Chile

(0-3).

But there was no goal from Paraguay – or Japan – in 120 minutes

today.

When Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima was forced to save from Lucas

Barrios, who had dribbled passed the defence in the 20th minute, it seemed as

though the deadlock would be broken soon.

Expectations – and the sounds of vuvuzelas – were raised higher

when Japan hit back immediately through Daisuke Matsui in the 22th minute. That

threat, though, was in vain as Matsui’s rocket crashed against the

crossbar.

Japan wasted another good opportunity when Keisuke Honda – with two

World Cup goals to his name already – drove his shot wide in the 40th minute.

Roque Santa Cruz, who is four goals away from eclipsing retired

Jose Saturnino Cardozo’s all-time record of 25 strikes for the Paraguayan

national team, came close in the first half but the attempt did not bear any

fruit.

The Manchester City striker is yet to score at this World Cup – and

so is his two strike partners, Barrios and Edgar Benitez.

None of the teams seemed intent on scoring in the second half, with

not a single decent attempt at goal.

How did these two make it to the second round ahead of Cameroon and

Italy (Group E and F respectively)? They are not even half the team the ousted

world champions and West Africans are – if this performance is to serve as a

yardstick.

After the game entered into extra time, Japan survived a scare as

they literally put their bodies on the line in the 97th minute, with three

successive blocks keeping out their opponents.

Two minutes later, Honda’s free kick was saved by Justo Villar,

underscoring what ended as a dull and drab draw.

» Penalty sequence:

Paraguay: Edgar Barreto (scored); Lucas Barrios (scored); Cristian

Riveros (scored); Nelson Valdez (scored); Oscar Cardozo (scored).

Japan: Yasuhito Endo (scored); Makoto Hasebe (scored); Yuichi

Komano (crossbar); Keisuke Honda (scored).

 

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