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FIFA World Cup Quarterfinal Preview – Spain Vs Paraguay
Spain and Paraguay meet in the last of four World Cup quarter-finals in Johannesburg, on Saturday.
Spain, together with Brazil, for the title, started disastrously, losing their first game in group H, to Switzerland. the loss acted as a wake-up call, and Spain came back into the tournament with a vengeance, winning 3 games on the trot. Spain have gone from strength to strength, and look close to reaching the championship form they showed at Euro 2008.
Paraguay’s form curve has been going downhill, with each successive game, the last one against Japan resulting in a goalless draw. Paraguay qualified for the quarter-finals by defeating 5-3 on penalties.
Spain won 3-1 against Paraguay in the 2002 World Cup. The other two matches between the teams that met in the World Cup finals ended in draws.
In their round of 16 match against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Spain showed why they are so highly rated. Their lone goal victory is hardly a reflection of their masterclass in the game, the low margin is only indicative of the superb work done by Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo on the day.
David Villa was undoubtedly the player of the tournament, leading to the quarter finals. He is joint top scorer of the tournament. Fernando Torres is also at his best, with a better performance against Portugal, after a rather indifferent performance in the group games. He was the spearhead of the attack, and Portugal’s central defenders were completely occupied trying to keep Torres quiet, thereby giving opportunities to Andres Iniesta and Villa.
Fernando Llorente came on for Torres late in the game, and almost scored. Coach Bosque is still likely to go with Torres in the quarter-finals on Saturday. Iniesta and Hernandes were very effective in midfield against Portugal. Xabi acted as a quiet playmaker to Sergio Busquet’s aggression. Spain did not rely on Cesc Fabregas and David Silva in the event. Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevilla were quiet in the wings, while Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol lent solidity to the back line, with the only weak link being captain Iker Casillas, who received the Jambulani blue on the day .
While Spain will go for all the aggression, Paraguay are likely to try to increase the pressure of defense as they did against Italy, in their first group game.
Spain should be vigilant, not to lose concentration and suffer a setback like in the Swiss game.
Paraguay started with a solid defensive game against Italy. This was followed by a walk in the park against Slovakia. their final group game against New Zealand saw a decline. Their inability to score in open play was underlined in the match against Japan in the round of 16.
Roque Santa Cruz has a poor finish of his own while Enrique Vera has worked in vain to create chances. Antonio Alcaraz and Paulo Da Silva have been solid in defence, but are likely to be tested against the Spanish armada. Lucas Barrios, Paraguay’s attacking forward, is among the few impressive performers. Paraguay’s only hope is to tackle hard, and keep Xavi and Iniesta out. They will hope to stifle the Spaniards, and score on the counter.
David Villa’s deft first touch and ready shot ability have shown Spain’s success so far. in a destructive form.
For Paraguay, Lucas Barrios has been the man in form, be it dribbling or in creative thinking.
Del Bosque is unlikely to tinker with the starting eleven for Spain despite the temptation to replace Torres with Llorente.
Paraguay will also stick to the proven Santa Cruz and Barrios as attackers, Vera and Riveros calling the shots in midfield, and Ortigoza offering a portrait to the back four, Alcaraz, Da Silva, Morel and Bonet.
This game can only go one way, provided Spain still feel comfortable.
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