Santa Cruz upbeat despite exit

  • By: Thahir Asmal, Press Association Sport, Johannesburg
  • Last Updated: July 4 2010, 13:23 BST

Roque Santa Cruz insisted there was no point dwelling on what may or may not have been after Paraguay bowed out of the World Cup with a quarter-final defeat to Spain.

Dejection for Roque Santa Cruz.

David Villa struck the only goal late on to earn the below-par European champions a place in the last four, but only after a dogged display by their opponents.

Gerardo Martino's men had been more than a match for most of the game at Ellis Park and thought they had taken the lead moments before half-time when Nelson Valdez brought down the ball and finished expertly, only for offside to be called against team-mate Oscar Cardozo.

Cardozo also had a penalty saved by Iker Casillas in the second half as the South Americans bowed out after their best-ever performance at the finals.

"We don't talk about things that could or could not have happened," he said.

"Of course in that case, we had a penalty that we missed. Besides that we kept doing the same job and I think we kept ourselves very much in the game until the second half where they had two or three chances.

"But we also had our chances and we didn't make them into the goals we needed to get back into the game. So we are still very pleased with the performance we did."

The Manchester City striker, who struggled with injury for large parts of last season, replaced Valdez midway through the second half.

He looked slightly off the pace and was also thwarted by a fine save from Casillas moments before the end.

Asked if he was still struggling to overcome his injuries, Santa Cruz added: "I don't think so. Like you saw, I came in and played 20-plus minutes.

"The chances were there, but in football sometimes you don't manage to take them. Their goalkeeper made some good saves, so you can't do anything about this.

"I'm pleased with the performance, the whole team was fantastic."

Santa Cruz, though, paid tribute to what the South Americans had achieved in South Africa, from topping their group, which also included Italy, to being amongst the best eight countries in the world.

He continued: "We are proud as Paraguay with the overall performance.

"We still believe that we didn't perform probably as well as we expected, but we are in the most important football tournament in the world where opponents are all much tougher than we usually have in friendlies.

"So we are happy with what we achieved."

Spain now face Germany in the semi-finals - not since 1950, where they were part of a four-team final group, have they had such an opportunity to reach the final itself.

The former Bayern Munich forward, who knows all about German football, believes it will not be easy for Vicente Del Bosque's team.

He added: "There is still a long way through, and there are tough countries still (involved).

"(Spain) play Germany, who showed a great display against Argentina and of course after this kind of display it's hard not to talk about Germany as well.

"It shows that it's not only good luck that allows Germany to reach so far in every single World Cup. It's going to be a very tough game for Spain again."