Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Japan Vs Paraguay (5-3) Highlights

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA -- Paraguay joined three other South American nations in the World Cup quarterfinals Tuesday, outlasting Japan, 5-3, in a penalty kick tiebreaker after 120 miserable and scoreless minutes in front of an announced 36,742 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

In advancing past the round of 16 for the first time in its history, Paraguay converted all of its attempts while Japan's Yuichi Komano struck the crossbar in the third round. Oscar Cardozo's soft shot into the left corner clinched the victory for Paraguay, which will face Spain or Portugal on Saturday at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.Japan missed an opportunity to become the first Asian team to defeat a South American opponent in World Cup play, dropping the continent's record to 0-9-2.

With all of its quarterfinalists in separate brackets, South America could fill each of the tournament's semifinal slots. Argentina and Brazil will be favored to advance, Uruguay is probably a toss-up with Ghana, and Paraguay will face longer odds.Thousands of seats remained empty in this capital city venue, and it was just as well. Those who found no appeal in the least glamorous of the eight round-of-16 matches were wise to stay away.Yes, the defending was of decent quality and each goalkeeper was called upon at anxious moments. The intensity picked up after a temperate start and, with so much at stake, the tension built. For the most part, though, this match was a dud, perhaps the worst in a tournament that began with several forgettable encounters.It's unfair to draw conclusions from a game's score line. A week earlier at this very same venue, the United States and Algeria provided greater theater without the benefit of a goal until Landon Donovan's late strike.
This grim affair lacked both goals and gusto.The first half yielded little. Paraguay kept possession, methodically trying to mount a persistent attack. Japan wanted to stretch its legs in the open field. Indeed, there were some quality chances: Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima blocked an angled shot by Lucas Barrios, who had used a clever touch and turn to penetrate the penalty area.Daisuke Matsui answered with a thunderous 30-yard one-timer that struck the crossbar. Off a corner kick, Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay's most decorated player, snapped a 12-yard bid wide of the right post.

Late in the half, Matsui jetted down the right flank and squared the ball to Keisuke Honda at the top of the box. Honda has been one of the World Cup's revelations, scoring a pair of goals and exhibiting a gifted touch, but on this opportunity, he sliced a 22-yard one-timer beyond the left upright.The restless crowd longed for a livelier second half, but the match continued to lack invention. The off-key vuvuzela symphony and a fan wearing a gigantic puppet head of Argentina's loony coach, Diego Maradona, were welcome distractions.Mild chances surfaced, but nothing to threaten the deadlock. Stocky midfielder Nestor Ortigoza combined with Santa Cruz for a ray of hope, Enrique Vera set up Edgar Benitez for a drive that was blocked by the sliding Yuji Nakazawa, and Cristian Riveros's glancing header off Claudio Morel's cross was caught by the well-positioned Kawashima.

With time melting away and neither side able to crack open the match, hopes for an outcome in regulation faded. The thought of 30 additional minutes added further discomfort to those braving the evening chill.Overtime, it was. Many neutral spectators had seen enough, perhaps eager to be home in time for the day's mouthwatering late game between Spain and Portugal. Patches of baby-blue seats became available during the break.Paraguay had the better of play in the first 15 minutes. Japan displayed some nice combination work in the final 15. Penalty kicks, an undesirable but inevitable destination since the first half, awaited.