(GSM) – European champions Spain will attempt to take another step in the direction of the World Cup final in Saturday’s quarter final encounter with Paraguay.
The Paraguayans finished first in Group F, drawing 1-1 with Italy and beating Slovakia 2-0 before being held to a goalless draw by New Zealand. In the round of sixteen, the South Americans beat Japan on penalties after another 0-0 result.
With three goals scored in four games, it can be said that the Paraguayans are having trouble finding the net. However, their defense has only conceded one goal so far and this may be a deciding factor against Spain.
Three Paraguayans are at risk of missing a potential semi final and will need to avoid being booked: Enrique Vera, Roque Santa Cruz and Cristian Riveros. Victor Caceres returns from suspension after missing the second round clash with Japan.
Spain had a rough start to this tournament, surprisingly losing 0-1 to Switzerland. But a 2-0 win over Honduras and a 2-1 win over Chile were enough to put things back on the rails and finish first in Group G.
Neighbors Portugal were defeated 1-0 in the round of sixteen, in a match that showed a Spanish side that looked much more like the team that won Euro 2008, especially in the second half.
There was some bad news this week as Raul Albiol injured himself in training and is unavailable this game. Spain have no suspension issues either after having survived the entire group phase without conceding a single card. Only Xabi Alonso, who was booked in the match with Portugal, would miss a possible semi final if he gets yellow-carded on Saturday.
These two sides have some recent World Cup history, sharing groups in both 1998 and 2002. In the 1998 tournament, Paraguay held Spain to a goalless draw and went on to reach the second round while Spain did not.
Revenge was sweet for the Iberians in 2002, beating Paraguay 3-1 on their way to first place in their group. Interestingly, the only currently active player that also scored in that game was Carles Puyol who netted an early own goal.
The teams last met several months after that World Cup encounter, and drew their friendly 0-0.
Bookmakers are clearly in favor for Spain to win this match and the general expectation in Spain is that this game is a good final practice before a semi final against either Germany or Argentina. As such, the Spanish have much to lose while the opposite applies to Paraguay, who know that a loss is expected while a win would forever be remembered in the South American nation.
Saturday’s quarter final will be played at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium with kick-off scheduled for 20:30 (8:30pm) local time. Language will not be an issue to both sides as they should be able to communicate in Spanish with the Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres.
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