In case you were wondering which footballer other than Ronaldo will be getting the most booty after the World Cup, meet David Villa.
In a game filled with much tension, incessant threats, and shots-on-goal galore, only one man managed to break through. The 63rd-minute triumph was Villa’s 4th in the tournament thus far, and proved to be the only thing that would separate Spain from the second best team on the Iberian Peninsula.
The score line might inaccurately indicate a boring game. If one hadn’t seen it, the assumption would be that Portugal tried to “Switzerland” the Spanish, playing cagey and hoping for an eventual chance to unleash Ronaldo while La Roja passed the ball…and passed the ball…and passed the ball…before finally passing the ball.
Not the case.
Spain came out swinging, and even more importantly, the slowly reawakening Fernando Torres came out shooting. In the 2nd minute, Torres ripped a curving ball in from the left, testing a diving Eduardo. One minute later, Villa took his first stab, from almost exactly the same place. He would do so again in the 7th.
Portugal had its opportunities as well. Far from the yawn-inducing hunker-fest that held Brazil scoreless, this performance was spirited. Particularly frightening was the point at which Spain broke its cardinal tactical directive for this game- Don’t Give Up Free Kicks. In the 17th, one could practically hear Ronaldo salivating over the vuvuzelas as he assumed his traditional Larry Craig stance to line up the shot. Cristiano is not among those who can’t control a Jabulani, but unfortunately his blast was not as powerful as it was accurate. Casillas grabbed it up with little consternation.
What certainly broke the sweat on St. Iker’s brow was the action in the 21st. A ripping strike fromTiago was too hot for the keeper to hang on to, and Hugo Almeida came flying in to head the pop-up goalward. The unflappable Casillas, however, halted this attempt more decisively. Anyone who thought Carlos Queiroz was planning another defensive game could rest assured.
Unfortunately for Portugal though, even when they did penetrate the Spanish third, by play or by Ronaldo free-kick, the immovable object that is Casillas was at least able to block if not smother the effort. The first half saw one more big chance for the Seleccao when a superb Meireles cross provided Almeida with the perfect header opportunity, but to no avail.
Portugal took its time getting back onto the pitch for the 2nd half (hair emergency, Cris?), but wasted none in resuming the attack. Tiago streaked down the pitch in the 52nd, and his cross only avoided becoming an own goal by Puyol due to divine intervention. God could not be reached for comment.
In the 58th, Torres, who had shown little outside of his opening burst, was brought back to the bench. Let’s hope his skill returns faster than his confidence wanes.
And then it happened. In a burst of frantic play in the Portuguese box, Iniesta saw an open Villa and flicked it his way. With a helpful touch from Xavi, the ball found Villa, who immediately fired. Eduardo was able to block the shot with a slide, but could do nothing about the ball’s rebounding right back to the feet of the Spanish superstar, who popped it over and in.
About ten minutes later, Spain seemed to feel that the game was theirs. For the last 15 minutes or so they resigned themselves to passing Portugal to death, which may not have worked had Ronaldo not been the victim of yet another miscarriage of justice. In the 85th, he was blatantly shoved backwards while going up for a header by Capdevila in the penalty area. The official, however, realized it was Cristiano Ronaldo and refused to take action.. Portugal’s frustrations were capped off by a red card for Ricardo Costa, who had honestly been a dick the entire game before elbowing Capdevila in the ear.
Portugal, it’s been fun. Cristiano, what can we say? We love you, but at the end of the day- it’s Spain. Adeus.