Evening So here, we are, the last quarter-final. Already the horrible awareness that the World Cup will soon be over for another four years is beginning to build, but there will be time for that in due course. For now, here's some team news:
Paraguay (parked bus-0-0): Villar, Verón, Alcaraz, Da Silva, Morel, Victor Cáceres, Santana, Edgar Barreto, Riveros, Haedo Valdez, Cardozo. Subs Diego Barreto, Caniza, Julio Céceres, Bonet, Santa Cruz, Benítez, Vera, Torres, Barrios, Ortigoza, Bobadilla, Gamarra.Spain (4-3-3): Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Piqué, Puyol, Capdevila, Busquets, Iniesta, Alonso, Xavi, Villa, Torres. Subs: Valdés, Albiol, Marchena, Fábregas, Mata, Arbeloa, Pedro, Llorente, Javi Martínez, Silva, Jesus Navas, Reina.Referee: Carlos Batres (Guatemala)
Those teams, then So, Fernando Torres keeps his place in the Spain attack despite a less than stellar showing so far. This could be a big game for him. Paraguay are not ones to over-commit themselves and will keep plenty of men back when Spain have the ball but given how well David Villa has ben playing you would have to imagine one of the centre-backs, most likely Paulo da Silva, will be drifting out to double up on him with Dario Verón, who has been brought in for Carlos Bonet at right-back. That should create room in the middle for Torres to exploit.
Paraguay have made five other changes, Nelson Valdez and Oscar Cardozo replacing Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios up front and with midfielders Edgar Barreto, Victor Cáceres and Jonathan Santana also drafted in. The parked bus will likely bear a passing resemblance to a fluid 4-4-2 that can become a 4-3-3 when they have the ball.
Ellis Park ennui The consensus on this game seems to be that - after three rather enjoyable quarter-finals, we could be in for a stinker. Such thinking is based mainly on the fact that Paraguay have scored three goals in four games so far and generally looked cagier than London Zoo. It's also true that two of three previous meetings between the two teams have finished goalless. None of Paraguay's strikers have scored a goal yet, and playing against a team like Spain you could hardly blame them for wanting to keep things tight. An early Spain goal, though, could change everything. Gerardo Martino's team have not been behind in any game so far at this World Cup, and it would be interesting to see if they would come out of themselves more if they do.
Confectionery conundrum "I'm not convinced by all this talk of Spain playing 'ticky tacky' football," tinkles Edmund Moore. "Tic Tacs are, after all, rubbish. Personally I think they're more of a footballing Feast bar." Got to disagree with you there Edmund, I think Spain are very much like Tic Tacs - attractive to look at but don't always live up to your expectations. Paraguay, meanwhile, have been more like advent calendar chocolate so far in South Africa - nobody's first choice but they do the job they set out to do.
Would a win tonight make Spain the favourites? Germany were obviously pretty impressive this afternoon, but William Hill currently have them, Spain and Holland as joint-favourites on 2-1. Given Spain have an extra game to play, one would assume their odds would fall further if they win tonight ...
It's the anthems ... Paraguay's epic instrumental is interrupted by a rogue parp from a vuvuzela, but the players keep their focus admirably. Spain's players actually look a little bored already, so the cameras cut to a group of portly fans singing along with gusto.
Spain win the toss! It looks like Casillas has decided the teams should switch sides. Just because. Paraguay will kick off.
1 min Here we go then - Paraguay kicking from right-to-left, or left-to-right, depending where you're sitting. And before the first minute is out they've already had the first shot of the game, Santana gliding in from the left to drive a low shot in from the edge of the box that Casillas smothers without too much trouble.
2 min "The problem with parking the bus is that there is always room to slip the ball under the body between the wheels," writes the aptly named David Wall. "If only teams sailed to overseas internationals like in the old days, they could moor the ship and avoid that problem. Just one more reason that football was better in the old days."
3 mins It's early days but it does look as though Spain may have tweaked their formation slightly, with David Villa pushed right up through the middle instead of cutting in from the left. Torres tries to nod one down for him on the edge of the D, but the ball runs through to the goalkeeper.
5 mins After that initial rush of blood (see 1 min), Paraguay are settling back into familiar patterns - men behind the ball when they don't have possession, rolling it around patiently in their own half when they do. Iniesta goes crashing over a clumsy challenge from Morel, but the referee's having none of it.
6 mins Spain are beginning to get hold of the ball a little more, but still not really sure how best to use it, Busquets floating long balls out from the centre circle towards the left-back Morel that are so far being easily dealt with.
7 mins Spain win a corner on the left, which is cut back to Xavi about five yards back from the near corner of the box. He whips the ball over to the far post, but it's just too high for the leaping Ramos.
9 mins Paraguay win a corner of their own and it's swung over towards Da Silva as he attacks the near post, but he gets there too early and it slaps off his forehead and flies wide.
11 mins Paraguay are definitely looking a little livelier over the past few minutes, playing Spain at their own game by hoarding the ball and waiting patiently for openings to materialise. That patience rapidly evaporates when they win a free-kick a good 30-yards (and maybe a little more) out in the middle of the park, Riveros trotting up and thwacking it almost as many yards over the bar.
13 mins Is it just me, or have people worked out how to make the vuvuzela more irritating as the tournament has progressed? At the beginning it was a harmless enough steady drone, but as both teams get bogged down in a clumsy midfield the noise begins to concentrate into impatient waves that sound something like the aural equivalent of a throbbing headache.
15 mins Neither team is really willing to take the game in hand at the moment - both seemingly determined to wait for the other to make the first move.
16 mins Ramos's looping cross from deep on the right skips off a defender's back before Villar punches it back up into the sky and away towards the D. Xavi is waiting there, but his shot is immediately charged down.
17 mins Santana stands huffing on the sideline after being forced to leave the field due to a bloodied nose. I don't know how he got it ...
18 mins ... Perhaps it was Ramos's fault. Or perhaps Santana just doesn't like the look of the Real Madrid defender. Or perhaps he's just a bit clumsy. Either way he charges into Ramos about four seconds after the latter had pumped the ball away upfield. The referee misses it.
19 mins Spain waste a free-kick on the edge of the Paraguay box, Xabi Alonso taking it quickly without waiting to see if anyone else is paying attention. They aren't.
21 mins Set-pieces seem like the best bet for both teams at the moment in what has been a very fractured game, and Alcaraz is this close to getting his head on a huge ball forward from a free-kick just inside the Spain half. He was totally unmarked, too.
23 mins "It must be a pain in the arse to be a Spanish keeper at the minute," writes Anthony O Connell. "The three Spanish keepers would be first choice for any other national team yet only one of them gets to play for their own country. Casillas is greedy." It's a fair point Anthony - though you could make the same case about Argentina with forwards (Diego Milito on the bench?!). Any others?
25 mins There's not a lot happening right now, to be brutally honest.
26 mins See the good thing about writing that nothing's happening is that invariably something always happens right away. David Villa manages to get in behind Verón on the left and wriggles his way down to the goalline before his cut-back is knocked behind ... OK, it's only a corner, but you've got to start somewhere.
27 mins The corner is half-cleared, before Spain work it out to Torres jagging in from a very similar position to Villa a minute ago, only this time on the right-hand side. His cut-back, though is hoofed clear.
28 mins At last, a shot in anger from Spain. Xavi takes a pass with his back to goal about 25 yards out, flicks it up ever so slightly with his first touch and swivels in the same motion before letting fly on the volley. The ball dips ominously but in the end crashes onto the roof of Villar's net.
30 mins "Don't tell me the World Cup is nearly over, I'm not ready for it's withdrawal," wails Terri Westgate in response to my pre-game comments. "What did I do with my life without live matches, highlights, podcasts, tweets and MBM updates? I may have to call up all those friends I dumped for football."
31 mins "It's been a nervy half hour," opines the BBC's commentator Jonathan Pearce, shying away from the more precise adjective - "rubbish".
33 mins The anticipation builds as Spain take their time over a free-kick near the right-hand corner of the area, but after much faffing tthe ball is rolled to Capdevila, whose wayward effort takes a nick and doesn't even make it out for a corner.
35 mins Much better from Paraguay, as a small band of players feel sufficiently emboldened by Spain's limp start to leave their half together. At the same time. Valdez strides out into the Spanish half, eschewing the early pass to Santana and instead sliding the ball out to the full-back Morel as he gallops down the left-flank. He twirls an inviting cross into the middle, where Santana has lost his man but can't quite get his head to the ball.
36 mins Lots of you have, very reasonably, pointed out that Spain's midfield positions are just as busy as their goalkeeping one, with Cesc Fábregas, of course, the odd man out.
38 mins Another Spanish corner comes to nought, Ramos shooting up like a jack-in-the-box from near the penalty spot but unable to direct his header anywhere useful.
39 mins Spain have had 61% of possession so far, apparently. They haven't done an awful lot with it.
The ball's in the Spanish net ... but it's offside! (41 mins) Massive let-off for Spain there - Veron picks out Valdez in the Spanish area with a perfectly judged diagonal ball from some way out on the right and the striker sidefoots it straight past Casillas but before he can wheel away he notices the flag is up. Valdez was actually onside when the ball was played, but Cardozo, in front of him wasn't. It's all about interpretation, but, to use the proper parlance, "you've seen 'em given".
43 mins "Re. Terri Westgate (30 mins) No worries about withdrawal symptoms for me, my team (Maidstone Utd) has its first pre-season friendly just six days after the World Cup final," chirrups a happy Paul Holland. "A virtually seamless transition from one season to the next."
44 mins Vicente Del Bosque looks anxious on the Spain bench. Or at least I think he does - it's not always easy to tell behind that moustache. He should be nervous anyway, Spain may have had more of the ball but Paraguay have probably had the better chances so far.
45 mins We're having one minute of injury time.
45 mins (+1) Paraguay break again through Valdez, who comes racing forward down the left tracked only by Ramos, but skies his shot a long way high and wide after cutting inside.
Peepety-peep That's the half. Lots to ponder for Spain during the break, while Paraguay have to make sure they don't get caught up worrying about the goal that might have been. Back shortly with some half-time emails.
More blessed teams The other main suggestion for teams with too much talent at one position is Brazil at right-back, where Dani Alves is either forced to play second fiddle to Maicon or find a role elsewhere. Any more for any more?
That offside decision "Cardozo jumped for the ball thus trying to engage in play; the linesman has no choice but to call offside," insists Niamh Ni Chonaill. "Spain are very lucky though. They have been superior on most fronts but Paraguay have come closer to scoring." A perfectly reasonable assessment, but I maintain my initial position - seen 'em given.
And here's Keith Autrey: "As a basic point, isn't it physically impossible to watch when exactly a ball is kicked and where the attacker is 30 yards down the field? Especially when a defender is going the opposite direction. I'm surprised the linesmen get it right as often as they do."
It's just like watching Maidstone "Paul Holland (43 mins) may be able to avoid withdrawal by going to watch Maidstone Utd six days after the World Cup final, but surely watching soccer (yes, I'm American, deal with it) at that level less than a week after watching Spain v Germany in the final [editor's note - this, of course, cannot happen - see subsequent entry on 47 mins] will surely produce some other symptoms," tootles David Keyes. "Depression perhaps?" Spain in the final? On tonight's evidence?
Jumpy Jabulani "With regards to Valdez's woeful shot (45 mins +1) when in a promising position, not to mention what happens every time Robin van Persie touches the ball, I can't help but wonder if the Adidas website's claims that you can 'Take to the pitch and let (the Jabulani) soar' is actually just a case of painfully honest marketing."
Torres troubles "Torres doesn't look like the player who was so good for Liverpool," sighs Steve Peake. "Can't they just give him a blonde rinse at half time?"
46 mins Off we go again. "With respect to 23rd minute comments, to Spanish goalkeepers and Argentinian forwards, you could always add English bottlers," points out Michelle Begg.
47 mins As quite a lot of you have pointed out - David Keyes's prediction of a Spain v Germany final is rather unlikely to occur since they are in the same side of the draw. Let's just pretend he said Spain v Holland and not let that ruin an otherwise perfectly good email, now eh?
48 mins Early indications are that both teams have picked up where they left off - bogged down in midfield.
50 mins You have to give a lot of credit to Martino who, despite making six changes to the team that beat Japan on penalties has put out a very organised XI who seem very adept at clogging up the passing lanes for Spain. There are no gaps, no angles to be exploited between Caceres, Riveros and the defence. It might not be pretty, but it is effective.
52 mins The other thing from Paraguay's point of view is that - whilst they would surely take a goal when they can get one - it may suit them not to score too early. They have Spain pretty well contained so far.
54 mins Nine minutes into the second half, nothing of note has happened. I thought it was going to for a second there, as Spain won a free-kick about 30 yards out on the left, but Alonso's delivery failed to clear the wall.
55 mins Wow. Alonso looks for Capdevilla on the left but winds up playing the ball straight out for a throw in. I think he was looking for Capdevilla anyway, but to be honest there was nobody within yards of where his ball ended up. What is happening here?
56 mins Del Bosque finally decides it's time to try something - anything - different. Torres comes off, but rather than send on another striker in Llorente, he's replaced the striker with Cesc Fábregas.
PENALTY TO PARAGUAY (57 mins) Well, well, well, Cardozo goes down with Piqué clinging to his arm as a corner is sent over from the left, and the referee has given it! Piqué gets a yellow card for his troubles ...
PENALTY SAVED! (58 mins) Cardozo, who scored in the shoot-out against Japan, takes the penalty himself but it's poorly struck and Casillas is down sharply to his left to smother it.
PENALTY TO SPAIN! INCREDIBLE! (59 mins) Spain finally manage a quick break and Villa, who looks to have got in behind Alcaraz, goes down under pressure from the defender. Alcaraz is booked but given he was the last man, is lucky to avoid a red.
ALONSO SCORES ... BUT IT'S GOING TO HAVE TO BE RETAKEN! (60 mins) This is getting farcical. About half Spain team had encroached into the penalty area by the time Alonso struck the ball - sweetly enough into the left-hand corner - and we're going to have a retake.
HE'S ONLY GONE AND SAVED IT!!!!! (61 mins) Wouldn't you just know it! Alonso goes the other way this time, low to the keeper's right, but the Villar goes the same way he did last time and palms it away. Spain want another penalty after Villar crashed into the legs of Villa as he tried to get the rebound, but the referee's having none of it.
63 mins Looking at the replays, that really should have been another penalty for Spain - Villar missed the ball and went straight into Villa. But it would have taken a pretty ballsy ref to give it unless he was 100% certain after all that had gone before, and he would have been hard-pressed to do so given the crowd of players converging on the ball.
65 mins Flipping heck - I've only just seen the replay of the Paraguay penalty, and the Spanish players had encroached even further on that one than they would two minutes later on their own one. It should have been retaken.
67 mins And breathe ... Was that enough excitement in those five minutes to make up for the rest of the tedium so far? Probably not, but hey - from the looks of things we could be set for a good shoot-out in about an hour's time.
68 mins Fábregas pumps a long ball forward from left to right, but it's yards ahead of anyone in a Spanish shirt and bounces straight behind for a goal-kick. As you were, then.
69 mins "Finally something has happened," titters John Allen. "I was just about to get out my England v Algeria video to try and wake myself up."
70 mins Spain have upped the tempo a little in the last couple of minutes, and Iniesta gets a sight of goal after the ball is cut back to him on the edge of the D, but he's leaning back all the way and sends his shot up over the goal, the first tier and even the big screen.
72 mins Xavi decides to have a crack from a free-kick on the left but his dipping, curling effort is brushed round the post by the fingertips of Villar. And yet for some reason, Paraguay get a goal-kick. Santa Cruz is coming on for Valdez.
73 mins Santa Cruz, of course, hasn't scored in 799 minutes of World Cup football. Playing for penalties?
75 mins Villa's harrying inside the Paraguay area pays dividends, the ball breaking from his challenge with Alcaraz and running to Xavi just outside the area, who drills a low shot across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.
76 mins Pedro is on for Xabi Alonso - presumably to give Spain a bit more forward thrust. Paraguay are finally tiring and the gaps are just beginning to appear in their midfield and defence ...
78 mins "A great piece of reffing to give those two (or even three) penalties," opines Robin Hazlehurst. "Never mind whether each one was justified or not or whether there should have been more, it seems the ref just decided that the match needed some dynamite up the backside and did what was necessary."
79 mins According to the omniscient stats guru OptaJoe on Twitter, this is the first time since 1966 that two penalties have been missed in the same World Cup match. Excluding shoot-outs, clearly.
81 mins Spain take a moment to gather strength, nursing the ball gently between them deep inside their own half, but Cáceres is in no mood to let them get away with such idleness, thieving the ball from Capdevilla but just overhitting his through-ball for Santa Cruz.
GOAL! Paraguay 0-1 Spain - David Villa (83 mins) It oh so nearly didn't happen, but finally this game has a goal. Iniesta burst through the middle, drawing defenders towards him before rolling the ball to the unmarked Pedro on the edge of the box. His drive thuds back off the far post but the ball runs to Villa, who takes a touch before firing back across the desperate lunge of Alcaraz. His effort, too, found the woodwork, but this time it was the inside of the post, and the ball ran back along the line before bouncing off the original upright hit by Pedro and rolling in.
86 mins That, surely, is a hammer blow for Paraguay. Barrios is on for Cáceres, but for all that they've played well they haven't had that many chances, and Spain are now in a position where they can sit back and make sure there aren't any more.
88 mins Santana picks up a yellow card after jumping with elbows raised to meet a long ball forward.
89 mins Well Paraguay did get another chance - a very, very good one in fact, as Barrios barrels forward onto a throughball and crashes low, bouncing shot straight at Casillas that the keeper can only push away towards the penalty spot. Santa Cruz is first to the loose ball, but the keeper recovers quickly enough to narrow the gap and manages to block his shot away with an outstretched leg.
90 mins That really was a fantastic chance for Santa Cruz. He might have done better to place it than hammer it but it's probably unfair to second guess these things. We're going to have three minutes of injury time.
90 mins (+1) And the first two of those look set to be gobbled up by Ramos receiving treatment after he took a boot to a head following a long throw-in from the right.
90 mins (+3) Our referee Carlos Batres looks determined to make up the time lost during that Ramos injury, but Spain are holding the ball well now anyway ...
That's it - Spain are through to the semi-finals! Paraguay, for much of the game the more threatening side, will be left to rue the missed penalty at 0-0 that could have put such a different complexion on this game. A penalty that, indeed, should have been retaken after some rather blatant Spanish encroachment. But in the end David Villa did what he's done all tournament, and dug Spain out of a hole. The European champions were hardly impressive, and Vicente del Bosque will surely have to think long and hard about whether to include Fernando Torres again after another disappointing performance, but they are through, and that is all that really matters. Germany await them on Wednesday.
That's it from me, anyway. Thanks for all your emails and sorry I couldn't use more.
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