It was a duel of opposing footballing philosophies: Spain vs Portugal, art of play vs art of war, attack vs defence, will to score many goals vs will not to concede any goals. Spain’s players could have easily been mistaken for boys enjoying every second of their game, Portugal’s players were seasoned professionals doing their job. The match finished Spain 1, Portugal 0.
The final match of the second round, arguably its most eagerly expected duel, brought Cape Town alive on Tuesday night. If anyone was ever in doubt, the first five minutes firmly established the type of game that would be seen on the night: Spain dominated the possession and attacked, while Portugal was relying on its tough defence, led by Ricardo Carvalho and brilliant keeper Eduardo, only to launch the sharp, fast counter-attacks by Ronaldo and Meireles.
Portugal did manage to provide a few chances, but overall, it was Spain’s night and no one can really deny it. Portugal’s defence used all the tricks they picked up on their way, from trying offside traps to using elbows liberally, but the power of Spain’s positive approach was simply overwhelming. It is probably easy to say now, but it never occurred to this reporter that Spain could have lost this game in any way.
Spain’s golden midfield boys, Xabi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso (who picked up Spain’s first yellow card in four matches of the World Cup) and Busquets, pretty much dominated the field, while David Villa has proven worth the £35 million bill that Barcelona picked him up for. From his side, Fernando Torres showed some signs of personal brilliance, but it was not enough: Spain’s attack became noticeably sharper after he was substituted for Fernando Llorente Torres.
The end of Portugal’s World Cup run has also ended two myths: the first one is that of Christiano Ronaldo’s superstardom. Real Madrid’s star was simply shot out of the game by the brilliance of Pique and Puyol and he is now joining Wayne Rooney in crashing down to the planet Earth. The second is the myth of Carlos Queirós’s expertise. He is yet to take a club or national team of consequence (including the South African national team) to any kind of success. Perhaps it’s time for him to call his old boss, Sir Alex Ferguson and see if his old job is available again.
On Saturday, Spain will meet Paraguay in the quarter-final game. Should they continue playing positive football the way the have so far, they should have no problems with reaching semi-finals.
Here are the reporter’s notes:
Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila; Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Fernando Torres, David Villa.
Portugal: Eduardo; Bruno Alves, Ricardo Costa, Ricardo Carvalho, Fabio Coentrao, Raul Meireles, Pepe, Tiago, Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao Sabrosa, Hugo Almeida.
Man of the match
- 1st minute: Fernando Torres, of all people, gets the first shot off in the night. It was a deceptive shot that curled towards the far post: Eduardo stretched and stretched and then stretched some more to save that one.
- 3rd minute: David Villa gets a shot on target from almost exactly the same spot as Torres. Unlike his compadre, Villa’s shot is low and Eduardo dips down to save it.
The Portuguese keeper is livid. I would be too. His backline is offering him no protection whatsoever.
- 5th minute: Corner to Spain. Eduardo leaps into the air for the save.
- 6th minute: Villa sneaks in from the acute angle and fires in at the near post, forcing another good save from Eduardo.
- 8th minute: Portugal are taking a different route to Spain’s goals – plenty of high balls are flying into that penalty area. Hugo Almeida had a good opportunity to sting the Spaniards when he almost reached a high pass just in front of goals.
- 12th minute: Torres comes within a foot of catching Eduardo out with a clever flick from a short corner that loops over the Portuguese goal.
Torres means business tonight. He’s certainly found better form that he had in the first three games of the World Cup.
- 17th minute: Portugal get a free kick. Ronaldo’s kick is very poor – straight at the goalkeeper.
- 20th minute: For the first time this evening, Portugal threaten Iker Casillas. Tiago’s shot from distance was spilled up into the air by the Spanish goalkeeper, and then he had to produce another save to deny Almeida a goal.
- 26th minute: Portugal get another free kick. Ronaldo’s shot bends, swerves and curves in flight and Casillas fumbles the ball and is immediately beset by a bunch of Portuguese players looking to capitalise on the Spanish keeper’s mistake.
- 31st minute: Xavi fires a shot wide.
- 39th minute: That was another wasted Portuguese opportunity. Raul Meireles looped in a brilliant cross and found Almeida, who failed to control it.
- 42nd minute: Tiago thumps a header wide.
- 45th minute: Torres tries to muscle his way past the two Portuguese centre backs, but finds Ricardo Carvalho too tough a prospect.
End of the first half.
Photo: Spain’s David Villa (L) fights for the ball against Portugal’s Ricardo Costa during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Green Point stadium in Cape Town June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hanna
Surprisingly, Portugal have played the better football in the first half. Spain’s game has lacked the gloss it had against Chile.
- 51st minute: Xavi tries to send one of his trademark flicks into the penalty area for Villa, but the ball ends up in Eduardo’s hands.
Xavi’s deft little flicks into the penalty area wreaked havoc against Arsenal in the Champions League. They only seem to work if Messi is the recipient of the pass, though.
- 51st minute: That was desperate defence by the Spaniards. Almeida shot and was blocked by Carlos Puyol, and it was very nearly an own goal.
- 54th minute: This is getting very frustrating for Spain. Iniesta’s shot is blocked
- 58th minute: Portugal make a substitution, Hugo Almeida making way for Danny.
- 58th minute: Spain make a change of their own. Fernando Torres gives way to Fernando Llorente.
- 60th minute: Llorente comes very close to making a dream start after his diving header fell straight to Eduardo.
- 61st minute: Villa makes one his trademark runs along the edge of the penalty area, and fires in a shot that goes only inches wide.
- 63rd minute: The Portuguese are finally pried open in a classy move that inevitably involved Iniesta and Xavi. Villa buries the ball behind Eduardo after an initial attempt that didn’t go in.
- 68th minute: Free kick to Spain. Joan Capdevila very craftily got himself sandwiched between Ricardo Costa and Carvalho, knowing that the two Portuguese defenders would foul him.
- 70th minute: Spain make a counter-attack and Sergio Ramos gets the shot off. He is denied a certain goal by Eduardo’s diving save.
- 71st minute: Carlos Queiroz is playing his last hand here. Pedro Mendes comes on for Pepe and Liedson comes on for Simao.
- 73rd minute: First card of the evening. Xabi Alonso gets Spain’s first yellow card of the tournament for a rash tackle on Pedro Mendes.
- 76th minute: Eduardo must be thoroughly sick of Villa by now. The Spanish striker finds the shortest of gaps to fire in a dipping shot from distance, prompting another save by the Portuguese keeper.
- 80th minute: Tiago gets a yellow card for charging into Villa.
Christiano Ronaldo has been wonderfully subdued in this match.
- 86th minute: Fabio Coentrao forges down his left flank and does ever so well
- 86th minute: Llorente headers wide, just wide, of Eduardo’s goal.
- 87th minute: Villa is taken off and Pedro comes on.
- 88th minute: Well, it’s over for Portugal. Costa gets a red card for elbowing Capdevila in the face.
- 92nd minute: Portugal’s last gasp attempt is blocked by Capdevila.
The referee has to get in-between Bruno Alves and Capdevila, who are involved in a bit of a tiff. Seems like the FC Porto captain feels as if Capdevila overreacted in order to get Costa sent off. Replays of the incident are inconclusive.
- 92nd minute: Carlos Marchena comes on for Alonso for 30 seconds of play.
End of the match.
Report by Branko Brkic; notes by Sipho Hlongwane
Main photo: Spain’s David Villa celebrates after scoring against Portugal during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Green Point stadium in Cape Town June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo