Johannesburg: Spain found just enough of the beautiful game — and a touch of good luck — to advance to the World Cup semifinals, beating Paraguay 1-0 on Saturday night.
David Villa took the tournament scoring lead with his fifth goal, which banked in off both posts in the 83th minute. The goal 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.
Spain faces Germany on Wednesday in Durban in a reprise of its 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final.
One night after penalty kicks decided Uruguay`s shootout win over Ghana, they were critical in Spain`s victory.
A somewhat subdued match suddenly became chaotic 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 the vuvuzelas reaching a crescendo, the striker who ended the shootout win over Japan was denied brilliantly this time by Iker Casillas, who dived left to block Cardozo`s low kick.
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.
After that wild sequence, it seemed anything was possible.