Spain shows a touch of class

Spain showed touches of the class that made it European champion on Tuesday, edging out Portugal in a tough second-round game while Paraguay needed penalties to dispose of Japan at the World Cup.

Fans react after Spain scored during the 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Spain and Portugal

Fans react after Spain scored during the 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Spain and Portugal

Spain 1 Portugal 0

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Spain showed touches of the class that made it European champion on Tuesday, edging out Portugal in a tough second-round game while Paraguay needed penalties to dispose of Japan at the World Cup.

David Villa finished off a fluid move of intricate passing to finally break down Portugal’s defensive wall and give Spain a 1-0 victory. Villa’s goal was his fourth of the tournament, making him joint top scorer in South Africa, while Cristiano Ronaldo could not manage to inspire Portugal.

Villa, the Barcelona-bound striker, saw his first shot blocked by Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo, but on the rebound, he coolly slotted home with his right foot.

“It was one of my best goals because it got us through to the next round,” Villa said. “Keep scoring so we can keep going.”

Spain will face Paraguay on Saturday at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park in the quarter-final, hoping for a semifinal meeting with Argentina or Germany.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, acknowledging the fury of soccer fans around the world, said that he has apologized to England and Mexico for refereeing mistakes that helped eliminate their teams from the World Cup.

He said FIFA will reopen the debate on high-tech methods to improve decision-making on the pitch following the mistakes in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg — when Germany and Argentina advanced.

“Naturally, we deplore when you see the evidence of referees’ mistakes,” said Blatter, adding it would be “a nonsense” for FIFA not to look again at goal-line technology with its rule-making panel.

“After having witnessed such a situation,” Blatter said, referring to England’s non-goal against Germany, “we have to open again this file, definitely.

“Naturally, we will take on board again the discussion about technology. Something has to be changed.”

The refereeing system won’t be changed midway through the World Cup. Blatter said the panel, known as the International Football Association Board, would begin considering changes at a July meeting in Cardiff, Wales.

Uruguay’s Jorge Larrionda and Italy’s Roberto Rosetti, whose blunders prompted the FIFA rethink, have been left off the list of referees for the rest of the World Cup. FIFA did not announce its reasons, but referees involved in controversy rarely make it to the later rounds.

Paraguay qualified for the first time with a penalty shootout victory over Japan after 120 minutes of tedious soccer in Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld.

Paraguay and Japan drew 0-0 after extra time and the South Americans won the shootout 5-3 after Yuichi Komano hit the crossbar with Japan’s third kick — his team’s only miss.

Five-time world champion Brazil beat South American rival Chile 3-0 Monday to make the quarter-finals for a fifth straight tournament. The Netherlands beat Slovakia 2-1 to join Uruguay, Ghana, Germany and Argentina in the last eight.

Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk has demanded unity from his World Cup players after Robin van Persie’s angry outburst at being substituted in the 2-1 defeat of Slovakia threatened to derail preparations for its quarter-final against Brazil.

Van Marwijk said he called a team meeting after reports in Dutch media that the Arsenal striker said midfielder Wesley Sneijder should have been brought off instead of him.

“I will never accept anything that could upset the next match,” Van Marwijk told Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

South Africa’s police chief said a British tabloid journalist has been arrested after what police called an orchestrated attempt to undermine World Cup security with an England fan’s intrusion into the team’s changing room.

National police commissioner Bheki Cele said police arrested Simon Wright on Monday. He said the Sunday Mirror journalist admitted to harbouring and interviewing Pavlos Joseph while police were searching for him.

And in Germany, an octopus called Paul hesitated but ultimately picked Germany to win — again — this time over Argentina in their quarter-final matchup.

Paul, who appeared to correctly predict all four of Germany’s games in this year’s tournament, indicated that Saturday’s game will be a tough battle and that it may even end in a penalty shootout.

It took the octopus about an hour to approach a water glass containing a mussel marked with a German flag, said Tanja Munzig, a spokeswoman for Sea Life Aquarium in the western city of Oberhausen.

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