Paraguay slay Samurais


Paraguay held their nerve to beat Japan 5-3 on penalties in Pretoria last night to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time after the match had finished in a goalless stalemate.
Japan’s Yuichi Komano hit the crossbar with his team’s third spot kick, the only one missed in the first penalty shootout of the finals.
Paraguay, who became the fourth South American team in the last eight joining Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, will now meet Spain or Portugal.
“God was on our side. Now we want more,” said Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino, who was in floods of tears at the end of the shootout.
“Thank god we got through, Paraguay have never gone so far,” said striker Oscar Cardozo, who scored Paraguay’s winning penalty.
“We are all very happy, me because I scored the penalty and got it in, thank God. It was a very difficult match because Japan too have very good players.”
The South Americans had enjoyed more possession during the 0-0 draw which produced relatively few clear goal chances at either end.
A cagey opening brought few clear-cut chances but the game sparked to life in the 20th minute, Eiji Kawashima saving with his knee from Lucas Barrios, then Daisuke Matsui cracking the Paraguay crossbar with a curling 25-metres effort.
An out-of-sorts Honda had his first clear sight of goal in the 38th minute, striking the ball first time with the outside of his favoured left foot just past the post.
Paraguay looked set to open the scoring 10 minutes into the second half when Edgar Benitez broke into the left side of the penalty area but his shot was deflected wide by Yuji Nakazawa.
Japan, who had torn Denmark apart in their final group game with some delightful free-flowing soccer, struggled to maintain possession in the second half and their trademark quick-fire counter-attacks fizzled in the final third.
With the score tied at 0-0 after 90 minutes, Japan made a bright start to extra time, Yoshito Okubo bearing down on the Paraguay defence with a surging run from deep in his own half.
Paraguay almost unlocked the Japanese defence seven minutes into extra time when Claudio Morel released substitute Valdez in the box but goalkeeper Kawashima got out smartly to block.
Paraguay’s Edgar Barreto had his head in his hands moments later when the ball dropped to him in a crowded penalty area but he could do no better than flick the ball over the bar.
l Meanwhile, Dutch and Brazilian fans began streaming into the city of Port Elizabeth yesterday in anticipation of the first quarter-final of the World Cup to be played on Friday.
Both teams cruised to the last eight on Monday. Holland registered their fourth win in four games, beating Slovakia 2-1 in Durban, while Brazil crushed South American rivals Chile 3-0 in Johannesburg.
Port Elizabeth, a coastal city of some two million, had been fairly emptied of World Cup fans following the Round of 16 tie between Uruguay and South Korea.
But even before the final whistle blew in Holland’s game against Slovakia, Dutch supporters began calling hotels and guest houses in the city looking for accommodation.
“The phones started ringing in the afternoon and carried on till after one in the morning,” said Alida Gerryts, manager of the upscale Conifer Beach House. “The city will be packed.”
Thousands of other Dutch supporters, who are part of a massive travelling convoy of orange vehicles, were reported to be on the road from Durban and set to camp on the outskirts of the city.
Fifa’s local ticket distribution office also experienced long lines, and by afternoon all available tickets for Friday’s game had been sold out. With both Brazil and Netherland enjoying reputations for playing attractive football, tickets for the game were in high demand among locals who had largely ignored previous clashes.
“This will be my first game,” said Andrew Smith, who was one of the first to get his tickets.
While previous games at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium have been marred by the sight of large swathes of empty seats, the ticket sellout does not guarantee a full stadium, a ticketing official said.