World Cup: Tearful ending for Japan, Paraguay
For a game that didn't have any goals, Paraguay's World Cup shootout win over Japan on Tuesday sure did have a lot of emotion.
When it finally ended after 90 minutes of regulation play, 30 minutes of extra play and a five-round shootout, a Japanese player and the Paraguayan coach were both in tears, the Japanese goalkeeper was frozen in place for nearly a minute and the Paraguayan players were delirious.
"There's a lot of fear and tension during a match and it's difficult to go through a match like that," Paraguay Coach Gerardo Martino said. "Everybody knows that it's unfair to have it decided by penalties. We didn't play too well, but we were looking to be decisive. So many things go through your mind so there is a reason for tears."
A shootout with Japan was the last thing Martino wanted -- the Japanese practice penalty kicks regularly and have been the best free-kick team in the tournament. Paraguay, by comparison, practiced penalty kicks just once, after training last Sunday.
"Nobody could say we weren't prepared," Martino said. "But our execution [in practice] wasn't too good."
So although the Japanese appeared content to play for a tie and overtime for most of what was a boring, plodding game, Paraguay pushed things on the offensive end. But it couldn't score either.
That set up the penalty-kick shootout, the first of this World Cup. And it was the Japanese who misfired with Yuichi Komano fooling Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar in the third round but hitting the crossbar.
Two rounds later, Oscar Cardozo clinched the win for Paraguay with his successful penalty try. And as Cardozo was swarmed by his teammates, who are going to the quarterfinals for the first time in the nation's history, Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima remained motionless in goal. Komano, meanwhile, broke down in tears and had to be consoled repeatedly by several players.
Martino was also crying on the Paraguayan bench.
"Quite obviously, we are having a party and celebrating with the rest of the people of Paraguay," Martino said. "I can imagine the happiness of the people there and let them enjoy it. The players have made a huge effort."
-- Kevin Baxter in Pretoria, South Africa