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03.07.2010 10:48

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 1-0 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

_1RS6400.JPGOnce 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

busquets.JPGAs 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 (0-1) 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.
Spain to edge it
Nether country has ever made it through to a World Cup semi-final and with so much at stake and both sides finding goals hard to come by it looks set to be a low scoring affair with Spain just edging it.

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