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Spain are getting better, says Xavi

Spain midfielder Xavi believes the European champions are hitting form at just the right time as they bid to finally land the World Cup trophy.

The Barcelona playmaker was named man of the match after an impressive showing in his side's 1-0 last-16 win over Portugal in Cape Town last night.

Vicente Del Bosque's side dominated on the ball as usual but were frustrated for long periods by Portugal, who had decent chances of their own at Green Point Stadium.

Ultimately Spain's patience paid off, however, as David Villa's 63rd-minute goal secured victory exactly two years to the day since their European triumph in Austria.

They will now fancy themselves in a quarter-final clash with modest South Americans Paraguay while Portugal - who had Ricardo Costa dismissed in the final minute - face a disappointing trip home.

"We played a great game. It was a great collective effort," said Xavi.

"We maintained possession and we wanted to play our style of football.

"Portugal basically gave us the ball. They tried to regain possession for counter-attacks but we dealt with it.

"We really enjoyed our football. It was the best match we've played in this World Cup so far.

"We controlled the ball in both halves but maybe attacked more in the second. We scored the goal and then we could enjoy it more. Basically, tonight, Spain were better than Portugal."

Del Bosque hailed the all-round brilliance of match-winner Villa after the forward's goal sent Spain into the last eight.

The striker's overall performance was key, as he selflessly stretched the play by coming in from the flank and offered protection to the midfield.

"David scored that goal which was enough for us to qualify," said the coach.

"But I should underline the great work he has done because he's also contributed in other ways, for example defensively.

"That was extremely important tonight."

Portugal boss Carlos Queiroz was gracious in defeat.

"Our time at this World Cup is now over," he said. "Congratulations to the Spanish team. We wish they have success until the end of the World Cup.

"Everyone saw it was an extremely difficult game for us.

"Generally, it must be recognised that Spain moved the ball extremely well and had a greater degree of possession. Any team that does this will have a better chance."

Belfast Telegraph