JOHANNESBURG - David Villa has millions of friends in Spain these days and two pretty good ones in South Africa - the goalposts at Ellis Park.
Villa banked in the only goal of Spain's 1-0 victory over Paraguay in the World Cup quarterfinals off not one post, but both of them. Villa took the tournament scoring lead with his fifth goal, in the 83rd minute, setting off a crescendo of blaring vuvuzelas in the stadium and further cementing his status as his nation's top player.
His goal last night 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 and highlighted a chaotic second half. "The post wanted it to go in," Villa said.
"Every game is different," Villa added. "I'm sure Germany isn't happy we got through."
A somewhat subdued game suddenly turned wild in a brief stretch 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. The striker was denied by Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
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. But referee Carlos Batres waved off the goal, saying a Spain player entered the area too soon. Given a second chance, keeper Justo Villar guessed correctly to stop it.
Villa's goal came after Andres Iniesta surged through the Paraguay defense and passed to the right to Pedro, whose right-footed kick slammed off the goalpost. The rebound came to Villa, and his shot hit the far post, then caromed across the goal, off the left post and in.