World Cup: Villa gives Spain 1-0 win over Paraguay

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — David Villa has millions of friends in Spain these days and two pretty good ones in South Africa — the goalposts at Ellis Park.

Villa banked in the only goal of Spain’s 1-0 victory over Paraguay in the World Cup quarterfinals off not one post, but both of them. Villa took the tournament scoring lead with his fifth goal, in the 83rd minute, setting off a crescendo of blaring vuvuzelas in the stadium and further cementing his status as his nation’s top player.

His goal Saturday night finished off a brilliant, three-way passing combination that typifies the way the European champions like to play. It sent Spain into the World Cup’s final four for the first time in 60 years and highlighted a chaotic second half.

“The post wanted it to go in,” Villa said.

Now Spain faces Germany on Wednesday in Durban — a reprise of its 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final.

“Every game is different,” Villa added. “I’m sure Germany isn’t happy we got through.”

One night after penalty kicks decided Uruguay’s shootout win over Ghana, they were critical in Spain’s victory as a somewhat subdued match suddenly got wild in a two-minute span of the second half.

Gerard Pique pulled down Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo in the penalty area on a corner kick, earning a yellow card and giving Cardozo a penalty kick.

With a stadium full of vuvuzelas reaching a crescendo, the striker who ended his team’s shootout win over Japan was denied brilliantly this time by Iker Casillas, who dived left to block Cardozo’s low kick.

“He will know this is the way of football,” Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino said. “This can happen. It’s important for him not to feel bad.”

Seconds later, Villa broke free behind the defense and was hauled down by Antolin Alcoraz, who drew a yellow card. Xabi Alonso went to the penalty spot and sent a wicked drive into the net.

Again, the stadium rocked, but referee Carlos Batres of Guatemala waved off the goal, saying a Spain player entered the area too soon.

Given a second chance, keeper Justo Villar guessed correctly, diving left to stop the penalty kick. He also knocked the rebound away from Cesc Fabregas before defender Paulo Da Silva made a leg save at the goal line on another shot by Sergio Ramos.

After that wild sequence, it seemed anything was possible.

And for Spain, anything is possible with Villa on the field. Not only is he the Spaniards’ best finisher, but he’s a sparkplug with his darting runs and imaginative moves.

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