Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Tale Of Inches As La Albirroja Moves Into Last 8

Paraguay succeeded in reaching an historic first quarterfinal berth by outlasting Japan, both physically and mentally, in a penalty shoot-out. La Albirroja converted all five of their penalties with minimum fuss. Japan suffered a heartbreaker when Yuichi Komano hit the crossbar. With this success, Gerardo Martino joins fellow Argentinian, Diego Maradona into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

Paraguay had the more talent and it started out in that fashion. Lucas Barrios was the brightest player on the pitch during the opening exchanges. The match came alive when Barrios fashioned a one-on-one opportunity which he failed to convert in the 22nd minute. There was to be action at both ends as Daisuke Matsui crashed a shot onto the crossbar. Justo Villar was completely beaten by Matsui's thunderbolt but Paraguay was saved by the inches of the crossbar.

Keisuke Honda has had an impact on Japan's World Cup thus far, but he was tightly marked by Paraguayan defenders and hardly got a touch. He was presented a chance to cover himself with glory but Honda shanked the ball wide on the 40th minute. Although a marked man, his ability to hold onto the ball and awareness allowed Japanese midfielders to run into spaces that he vacated.

Marcus Tulio Tanaka had an outstanding World Cup and together with Yuji Nakazawa, Japanese defence were dealing wonderfully against Santa Cruz and team. I was surprised that Nelson Valdez sat on the bench, but when he came on, the Dortmund midfielder provided much needed energy and effort on the game. He is the "Carlos Tevez" of this Paraguayan team, just like a Tasmanian devil.

Japan are out of the World Cup courtesy of a few inches. If Matsui had hit the shot an inch lower, it would have been a certain goal. If Komano had not struck the ball so sweetly, his penalty would have nestled in the net an inch lower than the crossbar.

Three words sum up Japan-Paraguay match succintly - tale of inches. The Asian challenge is finally over as South Korea and now Japan exit in the Round of 16.

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