Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Mon 15 June 2009

Confederations Cup – Day 1 Review

Group A
South Africa 0 Iraq 0

Johannesburg

As far as the South Africans are concerned, the Confederations Cup provides the ideal opportunity to fine tune their preparations for next year’s World Cup Finals. Following yesterday’s 0-0 draw that opened this year’s competition, you can’t fail to be impressed by their attention to detail given the number of goalless draws that have opened World Cups in the past.

As predicted in our TV Guide on Friday, this match was high on pathos rather than quality. You have to bear in mind, though, that all the matches in South Africa will be played at altitude, but that’s no excuse for the hosts who just lack anyone that can put the ball in the back of the net.

Macbeth Sibaya had one of the best chances of the match, shooting from well outside the box to force Iraq ‘keeper Mohammed Kassid into a fine save, but that was a bit of a collectors’ item where this match was concerned.

Thembinkosi Fanteni glanced a header over the bar from a corner later on in the game and substitute Katlego Mashego squandered a great chance to finish off a Route One clearance by his keeper, but the worst missed opportunity came just six minutes before the end.

Siboniso Gaxa crossed a high ball into the Iraqi penalty area which Kassid came out to catch and missed. The ball dropped behind him allowing Kagisho Dikgacoi to divert it towards the goal line, however Bernard Parker was loitering in the wrong place at the wrong time and was unable to get out of the ball’s path. His inadvertent block ensured that the game finished 0-0.

That farcical display of non-scoring pretty much summed up South Africa’s potency in this match and indeed the match in general. Iraq lacked ambition and though their passing in midfield was good, their attack lacked any teeth – much like their opponents. Benni McCarthy must have been watching the match from home knowing only too well the difference he could have made to the scoreline.

Group A
New Zealand 0 Spain 5

Rustenburg

The simple fact of the matter is that this match could have ended embarrassingly for the All Whites. Predictably, Spain were all over New Zealand and were 4-0 up with only 24 minutes on the clock.

Fernando Torres was undoubtedly the star man for Spain. His hat-trick began with the game only six minutes old following a delightful curled shot from the edge of the penalty area. Eight minutes later, David Villa pulled the ball back from the by-line allowing Torres to side-foot into the net with ease. Three minutes after that, he powerfully headed in a cross from Joan Capdevila to complete an emphatic early display that dominated the scoring.

The game was all over as a contest before Cesc Fabregas added a fourth half-way through the first half. His tap-in was the climax to a brilliant 16-pass move that was as much an advert for Spain’s superb passing game as it was for New Zealand’s inability to mark their opponents efficiently.

Three minutes into the second half, David Villa got a goal of his own when New Zealand defender Andy Boyens produced an air shot of the highest quality which was meant as a clearance. Fernando Torres’ ball into the box ran through to Villa and a simple finish was enough to give the Spaniards their fifth and final goal of the match.

A series of substitutions and a definite intent to ease up on the part of Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque allowed the Kiwis to hold the ship steady for the rest of the game, but the damage had already been done. Though they often had plenty of men behind the ball, none of them ever troubled their opposite number and when you can pass the ball around as well as Spain can, you’re always in danger of losing heavily.

So it turned out to be. Spain looked every inch the pre-tournament favourites and with such a sublime ability to pass and move to devastating effect, it’s difficult to see where they can go wrong.

New Zealand therefore go into Wednesday’s match against South Africa knowing that a win will all but ensure a place in the semi-finals while a repeat performance by Spain against Iraq is something you can virtually put your house on. The only uncertainty will surround the number of goals that will be scored.

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