Japanese team lines up for penalty shootout during their match with Paraguay. Paraguay was left standing and will move on to the round of 8.
No Asian team has beat a South American side in the history of the World Cup and today that fact still holds.
Not a thrilling game to watch during the regular 90 minutes, nor into extra time, but, things became incredibly tense and exciting after 120 minutes of play, with the first penalty shootout of World Cup 2010 — a shootout that gave Paraguay a win over Japan.
These two teams are probably best known for their soap-opera, side stories rather than beautiful soccer. Paraguay's star goal scorer was shot in the head in Mexico this past January. Salvador Cabañas is alive, with a bullet still lodged in his brain. He's recovering in Paraguay and the team is playing in Cabañas' honor.
And, let's not forget Japan's Marcus Tulio Tanaka was the defender said to have broken the arm of Ivory Coast's soccer hope, Didier Drogba. The Ivory Coast was the favored African team in this World Cup until Drogba's injury.
Back to the game:
Both Paraguay and Japan looked nervous in the first half, playing cautiously. But the match started to open up at 19 minutes, when Paraguay's Lucas Barrios had a clean attack on goal that was heroically saved by Japan's keeper Kawashima and cleared out quickly by Japan's defenders. Japan spared no time, getting the ball back and to Matsui who took a long hard strike on goal that hit the cross bar. Matsui kicked that Jabulani ball, that so many players have complained about, predicting he could score from a distance and he was very, very close.
But close does not a goal make, and there were quite a few back and forth attempts from both Paraguay and Japan before the half came to an end: 0-0.
The strength and power in this game was not in the offense but in the defense on both sides of the pitch. Yuji Nakazawa was strong on the Japanese side and Paraguay's Néstor Ortigoza could be counted on by goal keeper Justo Villar.
Still 0-0 into extra time, there were plenty of chances to make a goal for both teams, but neither could connect. All of the players looked tired and sloppy, particularly the Japanese who have been playing with the same starting eleven (with few subs) for the entire tournament.
After playing 120 exhausting and goalless minutes, Japan and Paraguay readied for the first penalty shoot out of this World Cup. The goal keepers from both teams proved themselves to be strong and capable during the game, but the onus is on the kickers to score, rather than the 'keeps' to defend. Eiji Kawashima was the keeper for Japan, and Justo Villar for Paraguay:
- Paraguay's Barreto with the first goal
- Japan's Endo with his first
- Paraguay's Barrios makes it, that's two for Paraguay
- Japan's team captain, Hasebe, with their second goal
- Paraguay scores number three
- Japanese defender Komano with a powerful kick that hits the cross bar and does not go in.
- Valdez with Paraguay's fourth
- Honda with such suave precision for Japan's third.
- Paraguay's Cardozo nets the 5th penalty kick, for the win
For the first time in its history, Paraguay moves on to the round of 8 with their 5-3 win against Japan.
So, La Albirroja can play at least one more time for injured teammate, Salvador Cabañas.