JOHANNESBURG, July 4 – David Villa scored the only goal as European champions Spain beat Paraguay 1-0 at Ellis Park on Saturday to set up a World Cup semi-final against Germany.Villa, who now has five goals in the tournament, struck the winner seven minutes from the end of what had been a disjointed quarter-final performance from the fancied Spaniards in a game that saw both goalkeepers save second-half penalties.
Germany, who lost to Spain in the Euro 2008 final, had earlier thumped Argentina 4-0 in Cape Town.
"It feels good to be in the semi-finals, but we know it’ll mean nothing if we don’t reach the final," said Cesc Fabregas, who came on for the out-of-form Fernando Torres in the second half.
"We watched Germany beat Argentina and they played very well. They are one of the best teams in this tournament. We will have to play our very best to be able to beat them."
Paraguay made a good start to the match and created two chances in the first 10 minutes.
Jonathan Santana shot too close to goalkeeper Iker Casillas from 20 yards and then Cristian Riveros failed to hit the target with a header from Victor Caceres’s pinpoint cross.
Spain were out of sorts with even Barcelona playmaker Xavi uncharacteristically wasteful with his passing.
However, he finally brought a spark to the European champions’ play when he hit a dipping volley from 25 yards just over the bar.
Four minutes from the break Paraguay had the ball in the net as Nelson Valdez latched onto a long ball and slotted home into the bottom corner but his strike was ruled out for offside.
Liverpool forward Torres remained an isolated figure up front and it was not surprising that Spain coach Vicente del Bosque replaced him with Fabregas.
The game burst into life around the hour mark.
Paraguay had a golden opportunity to take the lead on 59 minutes when Gerard Pique was penalised for hauling down Oscar Cardozo in the box.
But Cardozo missed the resulting penalty with Spain captain Casillas guessing the right way to make the save.
Spain then went straight up the other end and Antolin Alcaraz was adjudged to have tripped new Barcelona signing Villa in the area.
Xabi Alonso stepped up to bury the penalty but was ordered to retake it as Spanish players had encroached.
Second time around he changed sides but Justo Villar then guessed right and saved before Sergio Ramos’s follow up was blocked on the line.
Spain, though, felt they should have had another penalty immediately as Fabregas tumbled under Villar’s dive.
Villar then parried a curling effort from Andres Iniesta before del Bosque threw on a forward Pedro for defensive midfielder Alonso as he went searching for the win.
Spain finally got the breakthrough on 83 minutes after a typically swift passing move through the heart of Paraguay’s defence.
Iniesta laid the ball to Pedro on the right and although his shot came back off the far post, it fell kindly to Villa whose own curled effort nestled in the net after coming off the woodwork.
In a frantic finale Casillas dived at the feet of Roaque Santa Cruz to prevent an equaliser while Villar then stopped Villa from making the game safe.