Paraguay through after penalty shoot-out drama

Paraguay 0 Japan 0 (Paraguay win 5-3 on penalties)

Paraguay progressed through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history after beating Japan in a penalty shoot-out in Pretoria.

With neither side able to make the breakthrough during 120 minutes of precious few goalscoring chances or notable incidents, it needed the first shoot-out of the 2010 World Cup to separate the two nations.

And it was Paraguay who emerged victorious after Japan defender Yuichi Komano, looking to make it 3-3, slammed his effort against the crossbar.

That proved to be the crucial miss as Paraguay scored all five of their efforts, with Oscar Cardozo casually slotting home the winning spot-kick to send his team wild.

Paraguay will now meet the winners of tonight's match between Spain and Portugal for a place in the semi-finals, while the Blue Samurai head home after seeing their own dreams of a maiden World Cup quarter-final ended.

There was little to separate the sides during an evenly-fought first half that produced only a couple of moments to excite the fans at Loftus Versfeld stadium.

After a low-key opening 20 minutes in which defences were comfortably on top, the game briefly sparked into life with both sides going desperately close to scoring.

First Paraguay forward Lucas Barrios produced a great turn to break free in the area, and his low shot was blocked by Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.

Then, 60 seconds later, Daisuke Matsui rattled the Paraguay crossbar with a brilliant curling drive from outside the area that had the leaping Justo Villar beaten.

Paraguay ace Roque Santa Cruz and Japan star Keisuke Honda also had half-chances as the period drew to a close, but both players fired their left-footed efforts just wide.

It was little surprise to see the game deadlocked at the break, with neither side having been prolific scorers in qualifying for the last 16.

Paraguay netted just three goals - the lowest of any of the eight pool winners - and conceded only once in finishing top of Group E, while Japan's three matches produced only two more goals as they claimed runners-up spot in Group E.

With that in mind, Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino had stressed the importance of scoring first in this match, and that must have been the message he reiterated to his team at half-time as the South Americans began the second half on top.

They looked dangerous down the left, and from one of their attacks Cristian Riveros powered a glancing header goalward, but Kawashima plucked the ball from underneath his crossbar.

Although Paraguay were enjoying the better of proceedings, Japan also had a couple of efforts of their own through defenders Yuto Nagatomo and Tulio, but Villar was largely untroubled.

That would prove to be the case for both goalkeepers over the final half-hour of regulation time with defences once again dominating, sending the match to extra-time.

Paraguay enjoyed the better of the first period, with Barrios heading straight at Kawashima, who then came out quickly to block after Nelson Valdez had spun well on the edge of the area and poked a shot goalward.

Neither side came particularly close to snatching a late winner in the second half of extra-time, meaning this year's World Cup would have its first penalty shoot-out - with Paraguay taking the honours.

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