Unbeaten in the group phase, Portugal keeper Eduardo had his unblemished record spoiled by the unstoppable David Villa on Tuesday evening. In scoring the only goal in Spain’s Round-of-16 win over the Portuguese, the Barcelona striker became La Roja’s top FIFA World Cup™ finals goalscorer, an indication of his inestimable worth to Vicente del Bosque’s side.
“Portugal were very tight at the back and their keeper was in great form,” said a magnanimous Villa after Spain had completed a slender 1-0 win. “They didn’t make it easy for us, but I got one sight on goal and luckily it was enough.”
Xavi’s cute back-heel was instrumental in the build-up to the only goal of the game, though not even the praise of the influential Barcelona playmaker could make up for the disappointment Eduardo felt as he departed the Green Point Stadium.
“I had a good game,” said the Portuguese shotstopper, “but it wasn’t enough and in any case what really counts is the team’s performance and not what I do. It’s really frustrating to concede a single goal and get knocked out of the World Cup. Defence was supposed to be one of our strong points but there was nothing we could do to stop them getting through.”
“Spain started off very strongly and they controlled the game up to the half-hour mark, moving the ball around really well,” commented Ricardo Carvalho, taking stock of Portugal’s elimination. “We defended as a team but there wasn’t much we could do to stop Villa from scoring.”
“When you lose you just have to get on with it,” added Fabio Coentrao, talking exclusively to FIFA.com. “Spain played really well, especially up front. Villa scored a wonder goal, just the kind of goal they needed. Only a great striker can do the kind of thing he did.”
Patience is a virtue
Villa’s strike ensured a frustrating evening for Eduardo, who pulled off half a dozen magnificent stops to keep the Spanish at bay, forcing them to dig deep to conjure up a winner. In the end Spain’s typically patient, probing approach paid off, as Pedro, who came on for La Roja’s matchwinner, explained afterwards: “It was a very even game. They really kept things tight at the back and we found space hard to come by. We were far more comfortable once we scored, though. We know how to bide our time and that helped us tonight.”
Even more encouragingly for Spain fans, the team also rediscovered the quick passing game that had eluded them in South Africa until tonight. “This is the best we’ve played since we arrived here,” said substitute Fernando Llorente, who almost forced a breakthrough on two occasions, Eduardo denying him both times.
“We were on top of our game,” concurred orchestrator-in-chief Xavi, “especially in the second half, when we had control of the ball and played our best football. The goal did us a power of good and that’s when we started hitting top form.”
After several days of uncertainty, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque could afford a typically wry smile after it was all over: “When we play like that, it’s difficult to stop us.”
After tonight’s compelling performance, it is hard to disagree with him.