Who should take penalties for Spain?

Who should take penalties for Spain?

David Villa -- the World Cup’s top scorer with five goals -- missed a penalty in the Group H match against Honduras and thereby lost his status as the team’s principal penalty taker. In the quarterfinal clash against Paraguay, midfielder Xabi Alonso stepped forward to take Spain’s penalty. He converted his first spot-kick but it was controversially ordered to be retaken, due to alleged encroachment by two Spaniards.

Alonso’s second penalty was saved by Paraguay ’keeper Justo Villar. Spain went on to win 1-0, but the Alonso and Villa misses have provoked a debate back home. Madrid sports daily Marca on Tuesday organised an online poll about who should take any further Spanish penalties.

Some 39.3 percent of readers voted for Villa, who has missed five out of the 10 penalties he has taken for La Roja. Alonso was picked by 35.2 percent and 11.6 per cent voted for playmaker Xavi. Cesc Fabregas -- who calmly converted the winning penalty in the Euro 2008 shoot-out against Italy -- received 8.8 per cent, with Fernando Torres getting 5.2 percent.

These are the five players likely to take penalties if Wednesday’s semifinal against Germany culminates in a shoot-out. Germany have won all four of the World Cup penalty shoot-outs they have been involved in -- against France in 1982, Mexico in 1986, England in 1990 and Argentina in 2006.

Spain, in contrast, have lost two of their World Cup shoot-outs, against Belgium in 1986 and South Korea in 2002. However, La Roja did manage to overcome Ireland on penalties in 2002.

If there is a shoot-out on Wednesday, Spanish fans will be looking towards ’keeper Iker Casillas for deliverance. Casillas, who saved a Paraguayan penalty on Saturday, was Spain’s hero against Ireland in 2002 and against Italy at Euro 2008.