Spain march on to the semi-finals with an unblemished record after goals from David Villa and Fernando Llorente secured a 2-0 victory over South Africa to extend La Roja's record winning streak. However, there were celebrations on all sides in Manguang/Bloemfontein as New Zealand's goalless draw with Iraq ensured the hosts will join the European champions in the last four.
Much had been made in the build-up to this match that a draw would suit both sides, but it was clear from the outset that Spain were interested in nothing but a 15th straight victory. Seizing the initiative from the first whistle, Vicente Del Bosque's side nearly took the lead in stunning style when Albert Riera's ferocious 35-yard drive was acrobatically tipped over by Itumeleng Khune after just four minutes.
A pattern of Spanish dominance had been established, and the European champions' incisive possession football replaced the deafening roar inside Free State stadium with a nervous hush. Teko Modise had the opportunity to re-enliven the atmosphere after 18 minutes when the hosts won a promisingly-placed free-kick, but the midfielder curled a disappointing effort well over from 22 yards.
The most threatening attacks continued to be directed towards Khune's goal and, as half-time approached, Matthew Booth was forced to scramble the ball behind for a corner after Torres had skipped through on to a Fabregas through ball and forced Khune into a smart save. At the other end, Steven Pienaar was performing admirably in providing his team-mates with shooting opportunities, but a general over-eagerness in South Africa's play manifested itself in two wayward finishes from Modise and Bernard Parker.
A moment of individual brilliance looked to be Bafana Bafana's best hope of securing a result at this stage, and Khune provided them with just that when he pulled off an incredible double save to deny Spain. The first instalment came when the South Africa No1 threw himself to the left to push away a David Villa penalty after Cesc Fabregas had been felled inside the box, while the second witnessed him hold Carles Puyol's well-struck rebound.
Villa's immediate reaction was to hold his head in his hands but, rather than sulk, the Valencia striker provided the perfect riposte just seconds later. Danger appeared minimal when Riera lofted a delicate pass into the box, but in one, lithe movement, Villa controlled the ball on his chest, swivelled and somehow directed a precise left-foot shot just inside the far post.
South Africa attempted to respond, but they lacked a cutting edge and when Spain substitute Fernando Llorente stuck out his right boot to convert Fabregas's mis-hit shot, they were left to anxiously await news from Johannesburg. When that news came, celebrations began that will last long into the night and beyond.