Eurosport - Tue, 29 Jun 17:47:00 2010
With the match at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium failing to provide any goals - or much entertainment - during normal or extra-time, a shoot-out was needed for the first time at these finals.
Oscar Cardozo was the hero, coolly slotting home his side's fifth penalty after full-back Yuichi Komano had hit the cross bar with Japan's third kick.
Edgar Baretto, Lucas Barrios, Cristian Riveros and Nelson Haedo Valdez all kept their cool for Paraguay, while Yasuhito Endo, captain Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda were on target for Japan.
As ever, it was a cruel way to decide a game, especially one with so much resting on it, but considering the match was so riddled with tension and so sorely lacked any kind of penetrating attacking play, such an outcome was almost inevitable.
Coach Takeshi Okada opted to send out the same team he has done in all three of Japan's previous outings this tournament, while his counterpart Gerardo Martino made three changes, dropping Valdez and Denis Caniza and bringing in Benitez and Nestor Ortigoza. New Wigan signing Antolin Alcaraz came in for the suspended Julio Cesar Caceres.
From the kick-off, the anxiety was apparent in both teams, perhaps understandably considering the magnitude of the clash for each nation.
Japan were content to sit back and look to hit on the break but Paraguay, while they enjoyed more possession, lacked the nous to break down an organised defence.
Moments of true class were few and far between, although two chances in the space of a minute midway through the first half stood out from an otherwise dull opening period.
A beautiful turn from Lucas Barrios on 21 minutes forged a shooting opportunity for the Paraguay striker, but he was denied by the legs of Eiji Kawashima.
And just seconds later, Daisuke Matsui sent a dipping shot from outside the penalty area which struck the cross bar with keeper Justo Villar struggling to get anywhere near it.
Two further chances went begging when Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz dragged wide of the mark after a corner fell kindly at his feet in the box and Japan dangerman Keisuke Honda sliced a shot off target as the half drew to a close, but otherwise there was little to shout about.
It seemed almost impossible, but as a spectacle the game deteriorated even further after the break as both teams' fear of losing got the better of their desire to win the game in regulation time.
With neither side willing to take much of a risk, goalscoring chances were few and far between; Yuto Nagamoto's deflected effort on 53 minutes represented Japan's best effort during the second half - it was easily saved by Villar - while Paraguay's Riveros registered a header on target six minutes later which was straight at Kawashima.
Barrios mirrored Riveros with a firm header on target in extra-time, but the outcome was similar - straight at the keeper. Kawashima was then brought into action by Valdez, the substitute striker turning his man brilliantly before seeing his shot snuffled out, as the game briefly threatened to spark into life.
But aside from a Honda free-kick that was tipped round for post, neither side were capable of conjuring up a way through, leading to the inevitable lottery of the dreaded shoot-out.
Paraguay v Japan
1st Half Goals 0-0
Shots on Target 6-2
Shots off Target 5-10
Blocked Shots 4-1
Yellow Cards 1-4
Red Cards 0-0
Passing Success 75.8%-65.9%
Tackles Success 57.1%-70.8%
Territorial Advantage 51.7%-48.3%