In a match of contrasting styles, Spain's technical brand of football proved too much for the physical Paraguayans in this last sixteen tie of the FIFA World Youth Championship. A solitary Sergio García goal clinched it at Al Ain's Sheikh Khalifa stadium, earning the Iberians a date with Canada in the quarter-finals. The South Americans, meanwhile, prepare for the long journey home.
Spain made no bones about the fact they were out to take this tie and piled on the pressure in the opening minutes. With the ubiquitous Andrés Iniesta - who else? - firmly in the driver's seat in midfield, Jose Ufarte's protégés were all over Paraguay, who clung to Nelson Haedo Valdez's intelligent runs up-field as the only escape valve.
The Werder Bremen striker forced Riesgo to take flight early in the game, the Spanish keeper reacting well to push the ball away from his right-hand post (3'). The Europeans were quick to hit back. Iniesta tried his luck with a left-footed shot that ended in the arms of a well-positioned Anthony Silva (4'). The two players repeated the duel 10 minutes later, only for the keeper to come up smiling again (14'). he best chance of the first half fell to the feet of Sergio García. The FC Barcelona forward latched on to a loose ball at the top of the box and sent a curling strike towards Silva's top left-hand corner. Just when it looked like the deadlock had been broken, the ball struck the woodwork and sailed out of play (25'). The keeper's run of luck was to continue after Juanfran broke down the right and whipped in a dangerous low cross. Silva got down to push the ball away, only for it to rebound onto Oscar Díaz and hit the post, much to the relief of the keeper (32').
Juanfran kept up the pace down the right and Gavilán was all ready to convert yet another of his crosses when Díaz made a last-ditch goalmouth clearance to avert the danger (41').
Rolando Chilavert's young promises were determined to show they meant business too after the break and started the second half in a more attack-minded formation. However, the first chance went to Gabi, whose dig from outside of the area flew just wide (53'). Two minutes later, García broke down the middle to get on the end of a sweet Iniesta pass, but his sliding toe-poke was smothered by Silva at the second attempt (55'). The Paraguayan keeper could not hold out all night, though. A cross in from the left by Gavilán found Juanfran at the far post. The number 17 controlled with his chest, beat his man, took it to the by line and pushed the ball back in low for García to fire home from six-yards (0-1; 66').
he South Americans sweated hard to try and bring the game level but it was all in vain. Chances to take it into extra-time went begging as Dante López blew consecutive sitters in front of Riesgo's nose (78' and 79'). Moments later, Edgar Barreto was to do the same (90').
"We ended up having a hard time out there because Paraguay have some very tall players. But I think we deserved to win because we created more chances. Next up is Canada, who we're going to have to take a look at over the next few days. It's a crunch game where everyone's going to have to perform if we want to be in the semi-finals," said a delighted Ufarte after the game. Rolando Chilavert, meanwhile, was "hurt by the result," because "the team didn't play like they had in the other games." Nelson Haedo was forced to agree, adding "our families should be proud of us because we gave it our all out on the park."