CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Spain spent most of the night trying to break through Portugal's defense. David Villa finally did it.
Villa scored off his own rebound in the 63rd minute, giving the European champs a 1-0 victory Tuesday that put them into the World Cup quarterfinals.
In a game where Spain dominated possession and outshot the Portuguese, Villa took Xavi Hernandez' heel pass and struck a left-footed shot that was saved by Portuguese goalkeeper Eduardo.
He then fired the rebound with his right foot off the underside of the crossbar and into the net – his fourth goal of the tournament – sprinted to the near corner and slid on his knees to the flag, letting out a mighty yell.
"It was one of my best goals because it got us through to the next round," Villa said. "Keep scoring so we can keep going."
Spain plays Paraguay in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
While Villa is tied for the lead in scoring at the World Cup, it was a disappointing tournament for Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player. His only goal came late in Portugal's 7-0 rout of North Korea in group play, and he had a quiet night against Spain.
The game came two years to the day that Spain ended 44 years of international futility by winning the European title. The last defending European champ to also capture the World Cup was West Germany in 1974.
Spain was about teamwork, and it showed from the start. Fernando Torres and Villa immediately moved down the left, looking to exploit Portugal's defensive weakness at right back, where Ricardo Costa struggled. Within the first seven minutes, Eduardo had to make three quality saves to keep Portugal in the game on angled shots from Spain's two strikers.
"His performance was brilliant," Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz said of his goalkeeper. "He saved and kept the team fighting for the result."
Yet Spain moved on to an intricate passing game through the center of the field. Once Portugal's defense settled in it frustrated the Spanish, reducing them to long-range attempts by Gerard Pique.
Still, Villa knew a goal was coming.
"We never lost our confidence," Villa said. "We know the potential we have and what we can give."
This was 33rd time the Iberian neighbors have met in soccer, but the first time in the World Cup. Spain has won 16 of the matches to Portugal's five.