Villa, Klose star as Europe tighten World Cup grip

David Villa and Miroslav Klose confirmed they rank among the finest football predators.

Johannesburg: David Villa and Miroslav Klose confirmed they rank among the finest football predators as the chances of a first European World Cup triumph outside the continent rocketed this weekend.

Netherlands are favoured to defeat Uruguay in the first semi-final Tuesday while Spain and Germany clash a day later in a repeat of the 2008 Euro final settled by a Fernando Torres strike.

Only South American countries have lifted the trophy outside their continent but that seems likely to end with a Uruguay side hit by injuries and bannings looking weakest on paper of the four survivors.

Torres is having a bittersweet tournament as he helps Spain move within two victories of a first World Cup triumph while unable to regain the scoring touch that made him a feared marksman.

But there were no goals nor glory for reigning World Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi of Argentina, whose team suffered a humiliating 4-0 loss to Germany and left the future of coach Diego Maradona uncertain.

A Villa goal seven minutes from full-time broke the resistance of well organised Paraguay in Johannesburg late Saturday after Klose twice, Thomas Mueller and Arne Friedrich had scored for rampant Germany in Cape Town.

Villa became the leading scorer in the tournament with five after an effort that went in off a post and needs just one more to match the 44-goal Spanish record of Raul Gonzalez.

“Finishing top scorer is the least of my concerns. The important thing is that we get to the final whether through me scoring or someone else. I’m happy to score but I’m happier if the team wins,” stressed Villa.

The close-season Barcelona signing from Valencia has also become the top Spanish World Cup scorer with eight goals, leaving behind Emilio Butragueno, Fernando Hierro, Fernando Morientes and Raul who netted five each.

Oscar Cardozo and Xabi Alonso had penalties saved and Nelson Valdez a goal disallowed as much-changed Paraguay kept Spain in check until typical slick Spanish passing carved space for Villa to give Justo Villar no chance.

Klose celebrated a century of international appearances by raising his World Cup goal haul to 14 - one less than record-holder Ronaldo of Brazil with a third-place play-off or final to come after facing Spain.

“I’m absolutely thrilled for Klose to have scored in his 100th game, and scored twice. He truly is impressive, such a wonderful player. He scores more than once every two matches,” boasted Germany coach Joachim Loew.

“He is outstanding and is always able to put on a top quality performance. He is always very self critical, but I am really pleased he used his 100th cap to score.”

Misfiring Torres said he hoped to finish the World Cup with a goal after again failing to make an impression and being taken off by coach Vicente Del Bosque 56 minutes into his fifth scoreless appearance since April knee surgery.

Torres is looking forward to pitting his wits and skill against Germany and breaking the tournament duck.

“Everyone says the Germans do not have the best defence, but I disagree and they have also shown they have good forwards. They have good players like Klose and Podolski, but it is not about names,” said Torres.

Bureau Report

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