Paraguay sealed their maiden quarterfinal berth in eight attempts with a 5-3 win over Japan in the first penalty shootout of this FIFA World Cup after both the sides played out a dull goal-less draw in the regulation and extra times in Pretoria, on Tuesday .
All the Paraguayans penalty takers -- Edgar Barreto, Lucas Barrios, Cristian Rivero, Nelson Valdez and Oscar Cardozo -- found the target in the tie-breaker to give their country the first quarterfinal berth in their eighth appearance in the World Cup.
For Japan, who were also chasing their maiden quarterfinal qualification in four attempts, Yasuhito Endo, Mahoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda scored in the penalty shootout while Yuichi Komano missed with his shot hitting the crossbar at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium. Paraguay will now take on either Spain or Portugal in the quarterfinal on July 3.
The round of 16 match, however, did not rise to any heights with both the sides failing to impress with lots of mispasses and mistakes galore in trapping the jubulani ball while also giving away the balls easily.
The Japanese, who impressed with two goal-bearing free kicks against Denmark in their last group match, were a pale shadow of themselves in their second round of 16 appearance after 2002. They failed to produce any goals from the set pieces they got in the match today.
Paraguay were the first to get an opening in the 20th minute when Lucas Barrios turned in neatly inside the Japanese penalty area but his right foot toe-poke went straight to keeper Eiji Kawashima.
The Japanese responded two minutes later and they could have taken the lead had not Daisuke Matsui's powerful right footer off around 25-yards found the crossbar after beating the Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar.
'Blue Samurai' striker Keisuke Honda got another chance in the 40th minute but his left-footer from just outside the box off a Daisuke Matsui pass missed the target narrowly.
The South Americans, who had made it to the round of 16 three times earlier -- in 1986, 1998 and 2002 -- were the better side in the second session but produced few clear chances. In the 56th minute, Edgar Benitez spanked one in from the edge of the Japan box, but defender Yuji Nakazawa got across quickly to make a vital block.
Three minutes into the injury time, Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo whipped a free-kick and second half substitute Nakamura got a head to it but the ball fell just out of reach of Marcus Tulio Tanaka. PTI