David Villa helps Spain edge Portugal in battle of Iberia
A David Villa goal was all that separated Spain and Portugal in a tense second-round encounter in Cape Town.
The result is already being heralded as a triumph for football as the attractive Spanish style eventually overcame a stubborn Portugal defence.
Fans were treated to the stylish verve of a sleek Spain side -a stark contrast to the doggedly-compact Portugal unit.
A mundane first half saw Spain dominate possession but fail to expose their organised opposition led by Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alves.
Alves in particular managed to keep Fernando Torres under close watch at all times with the Liverpool striker unable to trouble Eduardo apart from an early effort which was beaten away by the Portuguese goalkeeper.
But while Torres’ performance was subdued, his strike partner impressed once again.
David Villa’s dynamic runs caused major headaches for Portugal’s right side all night and the new Barcelona signing gave Catalan fans a glimpse of the blossoming relationship he already has with current Nou Camp stars when he linked up with Xavi to score the decisive goal early in the second half.
Xavi’s neat flick released the lethal number seven and although his first effort was denied by Eduardo, Villa reacted by sharply scooping the ball over the goalkeeper and into the roof of the net.
After the setback, Portugal’s lack of attacking prowess became increasingly evident as Carlos Queiroz’s side failed to muster a comeback.
Cristiano Ronaldo was deprived of service from an unimaginative midfield. The perplexed captain looked to Queiroz for instruction but despite exasperated directions from the coach, Portugal were simply one-dimensional.
As the match drew to a close, Torres’ replacement, Fernando Llorente, should have made the victory more comfortable when he missed two headed chances.
Fortunately for Vicente del Bosque and his side, Llorente’s failure to convert proved inconsequential as Spain sealed their passage into the last eight after Portugal’s Ricardo Costa was dismissed late on.