South America will have yet another quarter-finalist, while the final Asian representative at the FIFA World Cup is going home as Paraguay defeated Japan 5-3 in penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw in extra time Tuesday in Pretoria, South Africa.
It was almost inevitable that this Round of 16 match between Paraguay and Japan would end up in penalty kicks.
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After a relatively lacklustre but evenly matched game with few quality scoring chances, Paraguay advanced to the next round on the merits of perfect five-for-five penalty shooting.
Extra time substitution Oscar Cardozo calmly stroked in the final kick for the Paraguayans, who advanced to quarter-finals for the first time in eight tournament appearances dating back to 1930. La Albirroja's victory means half of the remaining eight countries will be South American, with the potential that all four of them could make up the semifinal bracket.
Defending was the name of the game Tuesday. Both teams thwarted counterattacks and cleared away dangerous corner kicks, making for a relatively quiet day for goalkeepers Justo Villar and Eiji Kawashima, at least until the penalty kicks.
What this result means
Paraguay will move on to play Spain in the World Cup quarter-finals on July 3.
The winning goal
With his team needing just one more goal to clinch a historic berth in the quarters, Cardozo stepped up to the penalty spot and calmly placed a left-footed shot to the low left corner of the net sending his teammates into euphoric celebration.
The turning point
Japan's third penalty shooter, Yuichi Komano, heartbreakingly rang his shot off the crossbar, opening the door for Paraguay to win the game.
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Man of the match
It seems only fitting that in such a defensive match, a fullback is honoured as man of the match. Japan's Marcus Tulio and Paraguay's Claudio Morel both earn full marks for their efforts in this game.
Tulio was particularly effective delivering long balls to his strikers, winning balls in his own penalty area and continuing to labour on despite taking a few lickings from his own goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Morel was instrumental on Paraguay's set pieces, delivering curling corner kicks that did not get the finishing touch they deserved. He held the fort defensively too, helping keep Japan's Keisuke Honda from penetrating the back four.
The Paraguayan perspective
"This is tough. Both teams made a great effort. God was on our side. Now we hope to recover and to continue making history." — Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino.
The Japanese perspective
"I have no regrets over the way we played. I am really proud of the players." — Japan coach Takeshi Okada