Spain shows its class to reach quarters, FIFA boss Blatter hints at technology U-turn

By Simon Haydon, AP
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blatter hints at tech U-turn

JOHANNESBURG — Spain showed touches of the class that won the 2008 European Championship and Paraguay went the limit, needing a shootout to dispose of Japan at the World Cup.

David Villa finished off a fluid move of intricate passing — classical Spanish soccer — to finally break down Portugal’s defense and give Spain a 1-0 victory. Villa’s goal was his fourth of the tournament, putting him a tie atop the scoring list in South Africa, while Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo could not inspire his nation.

Villa saw his first shot blocked by Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo, but on the rebound, he coolly put home the ball with his right foot. The goal was set up by superb passing from midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

“It was one of my best goals because it got us through to the next round,” Villa said. “Keep scoring so we can keep going.”

Spain will face Paraguay on Saturday at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park in the quarterfinal, hoping for a semifinal meeting with Argentina or Germany.

“The match was extremely intense,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. “In the second half, we were better than Portugal. We had greater depth in our play, and we controlled the game very well.”

Paraguay qualified for the quarterfinals for the first time when Oscar Cardozo finished off a 5-3 win in a penalty shootout victory over Japan after 120 minutes of exhausting play in Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium. The decisive miss came when Yuichi Komano hit the crossbar with Japan’s third kick.

“We practiced penalty kicks once, so nobody could say we weren’t prepared,” coach Gerardo Martino said. “But our executions weren’t too good.

“You can’t recreate the environment you’ll face in a real game, with 40,000 fans.”

But the execution was perfect, climaxed by Cardozo’s winner.

“Character plays a big role,” Martino said. “What can you say when a Cardozo asks to kick the fifth penalty and he does it the way he did it?”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, acknowledging the fury of fans around the world, said he apologized to England and Mexico for refereeing mistakes that helped eliminate their teams from the World Cup.

He said FIFA will reopen the debate on high-tech methods to improve decision-making on the pitch following the errors in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg, when Germany and Argentina advanced.

“Naturally, we deplore when you see the evidence of referees’ mistakes,” said Blatter, adding it would be “a nonsense” for FIFA not to look again at goal-line technology with its rule-making panel.

“After having witnessed such a situation,” Blatter said, referring to England’s non-goal against Germany, “we have to open again this file, definitely.

“Naturally, we will take on board again the discussion about technology. Something has to be changed.”

The refereeing system won’t be changed midway through the World Cup. Blatter said the panel, known as the International Football Association Board, would begin considering changes at a July meeting in Cardiff, Wales.

Uruguay’s Jorge Larrionda and Italy’s Roberto Rosetti, whose blunders prompted the FIFA turnaround, have been left off the list of referees for the rest of the World Cup. FIFA did not announce its reasons, but referees involved in controversy rarely make it to the later rounds.

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