Casillas stamps his class

Casillas stamps his class

Casillas dived to his left to stop Oscar Cardozo’s 59th-minute attempt, and team-mate David Villa scored with seven minutes remaining at Ellis Park on Saturday night to send Spain through to Wednesday’s match against Germany.

“Pepe Reina had told me Cardozo sent his penalty against him to the left and hard,” Casillas said. “His advice paid off.” Reina had failed to save two penalties from Cardozo in Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to Benfica in the Europa League this past season.

Casillas and fellow goalkeeping captain Justo Villar both had stand-out games. Villar also saved a penalty -- stopping Xabi Alonso’s spot kick in the 61st minute after it had to be retaken because some Spain players had encroached inside the area -- and he blocked a late shot from Villa from inside the box. But Casillas also made an important late save, stopping a shot by Lucas Barrios before punching away Roque Santa Cruz’s attempt from the rebound in the 89th minute.

“Spain needed a game like this, but me not so much,” Casillas said. “Sometimes you have to suffer on the field.” Villa said Spain had been inspired by Casillas’ performance. “He was incredible. He brings us such confidence,” said Villa, who leads the tournament with five goals. “He gives us such great confidence and we know how many times he’s saved us - not just with the penalty but at the end, too.”

Casillas also won praise from both winning and losing coaches for the saves that proved decisive. “Casillas has been extraordinary. He made two magnificent stops and he certainly contributed to our success,” said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino echoed Del Bosque's comments on the Real Madrid ’keeper, saying Spain's captain played a key role in his side's defeat. “Undoubtedly he has been decisive,” he said.

Germany crushed Argentina 4-0 in an earlier quarterfinal to enter semifinals and Casillas said he expects the Germans to be out to avenge their 1-0 loss to Spain in the 2008 Euro final. “I think they are the best team at the World Cup,” Casillas said. “After what they did to England and Argentina, we have to have maximum respect for them.”

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