Paraguay waited 80 years to make the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, and undoubtedly didn't mind the extra 40 minutes needed to eliminate Japan via penalty kicks in Pretoria on Tuesday.
Oscar Cardozo made it 5-for-5 in the penalty kicks, with Yuichi Komano hitting the crossbar on Japan's third attempt to end a scoreless match through regular play.
Paraguay reaches the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in eight tournament appearances dating back to 1930. Their victory means half of the Elite Eight countries will be South American, with the potential that all four of them could make up the semifinal bracket.
"This is tough. Both teams made a great effort. God was on our side," said coach Gerardo Martino, who was in tears after the game. "Now we hope to recover and to continue making history."
Paraguay will next face Spain, which beat Portugal 1-0 later Tuesday. The quarter-final will take place Saturday in Johannesburg (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET).
Daisuke Matsui rattled a shot off the bar in the first half for Japan, which was looking for its first World Cup quarter-final berth in four consecutive tournament appearances.
"It is very difficult to narrow down why we didn't score," Japan coach Takeshi Okada said. "We should have made the opportunities. I think it is my responsibility."
Changes help Paraguay
Paraguay made five changes to its starting lineup from its final group-stage game.
Fullback Carlos Bonet returned after missing the last group-stage game against New Zealand, along with defender Antolin Alcaraz and forward Lucas Barrios.
Midfielder Nestor Ortigoza and forward Edgar Benitez came in for their first games of the tournament.
Those making way were defenders Denis Caniza and Julio Cesar Caceres, suspended midfielder Victor Caceres and forwards Oscar Cardozo and Nelson Valdez.
Japan went in with the same starting team that played all three group games.
Barrios got a shot on target in the 20th minute, saved by Eiji Kawashima and cleared away by the Japanese defence.
Just over a minute later, Matsui beat keeper Justo Villar but was inches too high.
The only other play that appeared dangerous in the first half came off a Paraguayan corner later in the frame, but Roque Santa Cruz didn't get the shot he wanted.
Benitez's shot in the box early in the second was blocked by Yuji Nakazawa.
Penalty kicks decide it
The second half featured more activity in the final third of the field, but neither team could capitalize despite multiple corner kicks.
Barrios redirected a cross with a header four minutes into the first extra-time session, but right into the hands of Kawashima.
At the other end, Keisuke Honda's free kick forced Justo Villar into the same. Honda had scored one of two impressive free kick goals for Japan against Denmark the last time out.
The first five players up to the penalty spot came through, despite the keepers guessing the right way on two occasions. The scorers were: Edgar Barreto, Barrios and Cristian Riveros for Paraguay, and Yasuhito Endo and Makoto Hasebe.
Despite Paruguay's perfect ledger, coach Martino said there was room for improvement.
"We practised penalty kicks once, so nobody could say we weren't prepared," 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."
After Komano missed, Nelson Valdez scored to put the heat on Honda, but he calmly kept Japan alive for a few seconds more.
Cardozo brought about a joyous finish for the Paraguayans.
"We are very happy as we never got this far," Cardozo said. "Japan has great players, but we controlled the ball, which is what we wanted, and they didn't score."
It was the first match of the tournament to require penalties. There were four such games in the 2006 World Cup, including the final won by Italy over France.
An Asian team has never beaten a South American side in World Cup history.
"I have no regrets over the way we played," Okada said. "I am really proud of the players."With files from The Associated Press