Spain aiming to make history
Roger Bogunyà/Aida Soriano
Spain have a date with history this evening in Johannesburg. The current European champions and one of the pre-tournament favourites for the world crown need to overcome Paraguay to reach a World Cup semi-final for the first time ever.
Vicente Del Bosque’s men have got this far thanks in large part to the goals of Barça new boy
David Villa. They scrapped a narrow
win over Portugal in the previous round – a great goal from Villa with the help of
Iniesta and Xavi – while Paraguay needed extra time and a penalty shootout to get past Japan.
A clash of styles
On paper the match looks like being a similar affair to Spain’s contest with their
Iberian neighbours, with Spain relying on their passing-possession style while Paraguay sit back
and defend and hope to catch Puyol and co on the break. The Paraguayan defence has been solid
throughout the tournament, conceding just the one goal, so a lot will depend on the Barça trio
formed by Iniesta, Xavi and Villa to turn possession into goals.
The Barça influence
Once again the former Real Madrid coach Del Bosque is likely to include six Barça
players in his starting line-up: Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué in the heart of the defence, Sergio
Busquets, Iniesta and Xavi in midfield and David Villa up front. The main doubt centres on
Liverpool striker Torres, who has had a disappointing tournament up to now. Spain improved a lot
against Portugal when Bilbao’s Llorente came on in his place giving Del Bosque a tricky
selection dilemma for this vital match. All of Spain’s goals have come from Barça players so
far, with David Villa taking four and Iniesta chipping in with one.
Record so far
As far as the stats are concerned, Spain have scored five and conceded three while
Paraguay have scored three and conceded just the one. However, Paraguay have only won one match and
drawn the other three while Spain have won three of their matches after starting with a surprise
defeat against Switzerland
in the group stage.
Ones to watch
Valladolid goalkeeper, Justo Villar, and forwards Lucas Barrios and Roque Santa Cruz - who
ply their trade with Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City respectively - are probably the
best-known names in the Paraguay squad. However, so far the goals have come from the defender
Antolín Alcaraz and midfielders Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros.