By AVI CREDITOR
Spain appears to have steadied its World Cup ship.
After breaking down and holding off Portugal on Tuesday, 1-0, La Furia Roja clinched the eighth and final spot in the quarterfinals and put to bed any worries about a failed tournament run.
Spain's play started with an out-of-sync, 1-0 loss to Switzerland. Vicente del Bosque's men have since reverted back into their fluid, possession-dominating, defensively sound style and haven't trailed since the opening loss.
Spain controlled the bulk of the possession against perhaps the tournament's premiere defensive unit, as Portugal hadn't allowed a goal through group play against opponents such as Brazil and the Ivory Coast. The Portuguese stood tall until Xavi and Andres Iniesta orchestrated a passing sequence at the top of the box that led to David Villa's 63rd-minute, game-winning goal.
Villa's first shot from a left-side angle was saved by Eduardo, but the Portugal keeper yielded a rebound that Villa chipped under the crossbar to break the scoreless deadlock.
Portugal never threatened Spain goalie Iker Casillas after that, as star Cristiano Ronaldo found little success throughout the match. His most notable moment came in the 28th minute, when he blasted a shot off Casillas' chest on a 40-yard free kick. Ronaldo, under much scrutiny for his failure to deliver on the international stage, scored one goal in the World Cup, Portugal's sixth tally in its 7-0 rout of North Korea.
Here are highlights of Villa's goal:
PARAGUAY OUTLASTS JAPAN IN PENALTIES
After 120 scoreless minutes, Paraguay and Japan became the first teams in the 2010 World Cup to have a game decided by penalty kicks. The South Americans made all five of their attempts, but Japan defender Yuichi Komano blasted his off the crossbar to account for the difference, as Paraguay took the shootout, 5-3.
Edgar Barreto, Lucas Barrios, Cristian Riveros, Nelson Valdez and Oscar Cardozo each were successful from the spot for Paraguay.
Yasuhito Endo and Makoto Hasebe each made their penalty kicks, but Komano, who had never scored for Japan on the international level, gave the Guaranies the break they needed.
Keisuke Honda kept Japan alive with his cool finish, but Cardozo took a slow run-up and fired into the vacant lower left corner for the clincher.
Regulation and extra time were pretty fruitless, with neither team seriously threatening the opposing goalkeeper. Paraguay striker Lucas Barrios troubled Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima on a low shot in the first half and a header in the first period of extra time for two of the South Americans' best chances.
Honda was held in check for the most part, though his 40th-minute strike from 20 yards was just left of the post.
Here are highlights from the shootout:
Spain and Paraguay will meet in one of the four quarterfinal matchups. Brazil-Netherlands, Argentina-Germany, Uruguay-Ghana are the others.
What did you think of the day's matches? Do you think Paraguay can upset Spain? Amazed that four out of the final eight teams are from South America? What did you think of Ronaldo's World Cup?
Share your thoughts below.