Thursday, June 18, 2009

Confederations Cup – Day 3 Review

Group A
South Africa 2 New Zealand 0

The home fans finally got a taste of glory in Bafana Bafana's second game of the 2009 Confederations Cup as New Zealand were defeated 2-0.

Once again, New Zealand were disappointingly poor just as they were against Spain and if it's any consolation they did at least defend a little better. That said, South Africa were determined to get three points from this match, and with lots of good attacking moves coming via the left wing they were able to claim them comfortably.

Everton's Steven Pienaar was instrumental in much of what the home side produced - indeed he instigated the move that led to the first goal after 21 minutes for Bernard Parker.

Parker, you'll remember, gained international fame and superstardom by accidentally blocking a goal-bound shot from his own team-mate in South Africa's first match against Iraq. This time, there were no such blunders as he flicked the ball past Kiwi 'keeper Glen Moss to put South Africa 1-0 up.

Bernard Parker had another great chance to score later in the first half when he ran straight for goal up the centre of the pitch, only to see his shot deflected wide by the outstretched leg of Moss.

South Africa were all over their opponents, but it wasn't until the 52nd minute that they were able to double their lead. Once again, Pienaar was involved, crossing the ball into the box for Parker to flick in, and that was about all as far as meaningful goal opportunities were concerned.

New Zealand again failed by their inability to keep possession and pass accurately amongst one another. It's actually a wonder they managed to get even one goal against Italy in their pre-competition friendly, let alone three on this basis.

By the time South Africa had scored their second last night, New Zealand were in no position to counter their opponents' new-found confidence and can now only look forward to picking up a consolation point or three in their last match against Iraq on Sunday. If they're lucky.

For South Africa, a draw against Spain will be of benefit to both teams, and given the Spanish team's easing down through the gears against Iraq yesterday, that could be what we end up getting.

Group A
Spain 1 Iraq 0

Iraq decided to try and win a game at this Confederations Cup competition which, following their performance against South Africa on Sunday, was quite a shock. The trouble was, they were up against a Spain side who were looking for their 14th win on the trot and were totally skilled up to get it.

Iraq looked a much more focused unit this time around and were a decent match for the Spaniards, even carving out an early chance through Alaa Abdul Zahra who managed to test Iker Casillas from 20 yards out.

So efficient, in fact, were the Iraqis at containing their opponents that Spain's usual slick passing and movement amounted to very little in the first half. Iraq defended diligently and Vicente Del Bosque's team couldn't find a way through, much to many people's surprise.

Ten minutes into the second half, however, Spain's patience paid off when Joan Capdevila produced another incisive cross which David Villa expertly flicked in with his head. It was the cue for Spain to press on with more possession and self-confidence but a second goal failed to arrive. In fact they almost conceded a late equaliser when Nashat Akram went close with a 25-yard effort which would have easily beaten Casillas in the Spanish goal.

As it is, Spain held on to claim their second victory of the campaign and a record-equalling 14th consecutive win. They're now assured of a place in the semi-finals (as if that were ever in any doubt), and if they draw their last match against South Africa it'll be against the runners-up in Group A - probably Italy, if our guess is anything to go by.

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