Spain beat Bafana to secure 3rd position in Confeds Cup

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rustenburg - The world ranked number one team, Spain beat host, South Africa 3-2 to secure the third place in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

The two teams faced each other on Sunday at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in a thriller play-off game for third position in the Confederations Cup.

Although there was no trophy at stake the game was another interesting test for the two Group A winners, who were knocked out at the semifinal stage.

The visitors were playing 4-3-3, while the host was playing 4-4-2 at the start of the match.

With its extraordinary talented players, Spain came to the game with a massive hurdle ahead of them to continue with their winning streak; however Bafana Bafana showed that they were not prepared to settle for fourth position.

From the start of the game, it was clear that Bafana Bafana aimed to go out on a high as they continued to gain confidence as each minute went on.

Spain had one shot in the first seven minutes of the game, but Bafana's goal keeper, Itumeleng Khune fisted the ball away.

Playmaker, Teko Modise and Steven Pienaar were amazing with their control of the ball, neat passing and speed in the middle of the park.

In the first half, the host was on top form and they proved to the Spaniards that they were a very tough nut to crack.

In the 19th minute, Tsepo Masilela stopped David Villa with a professional neat tackle in the box.

A minute later, Fernando Torres was also frustrated with another clean tackle inside the box by the solid South African defence before he unleashed a rocket.

Bernard Parker never gave Gerald Pique a chance to breathe. His speed when moving forward earned him a free-kick outside the box.

However, South Africa squandered an opportunity to register their first goal after Spanish keeper Iker Casillas fisted a Pienaar volley straight to unmarked Matthew Booth who missed the target.

Earlier on, Booth headed a free-kick fractionally wide of the cross bar while left with only the keeper to beat.

Fort the better part of the first half, Bafana Bafana defence kept Torres and Villa into their intensive care unit, despite their few dull scoring attempts.

When the referee blew the whistle in the second half, the score board was still 0-0, however, in terms of ball possession Spain was standing at 52 percent, while the host had only 48 percent.

The second half was fascinating with the highest-scoring attacking strikers of the tournament, Villa, Torres unable to frustrate the strongest South African defence.

A minute after the second half, Bafana's skipper fouled Torres 25 metres from the box, Xavi Alonso unleashed a rocket, which Khune fisted away to Sergio who found the net, but his goal was not allowed because he was offside.

Realising that his top goal scores, Torres and Villa were in disarray, head Vicente Del Bosque replaced the two strikers with Daniel Guiza and David Silva in the 60th minute.

The two substitutes changed the game as Spain continued to put more pressure to Bafana's defence.

Khune had to position himself to save a Riera's shot. South Africa's head coach, Joel Santana replaced sensational midfielder, Steven Pienaar with Katlego Mphela.

Few minutes later, Elrio van Heerden came in for Modise who was visible in the middle of the park.

Mphela brought smiles to the more than 31 000 fans in the 73rd minute when he beat Iker with a thundering shot from the box.

The jubilant fans made Mphela and van Heerden to pose more threats to the Spanish defence. The substitute led Bosque to replace his defender Sergio by Fernando Llorente.

Couch Santana also replaced Siphiwe Tshabalala by central defence midfield, Benson Mhlongo.

However, the South African fans happiness was short-lived in the 87th minute when Guiza equalized his team.

A minute later, Bafana's keeper misjudged Guiza's angled shot and that put Spain on the lead by 2-1.

Mphela became a hero when he found an equalizer with his rocket free-kick 25 metres from the box on added time (93rd minute). South African fans, who were already leaving the stadium, returned to their seats and continued to sing shosholoza.

Mphela's equalizer led the two teams to extra time. The Mamelodi Sundowns striker together with teammate van Heerden continued to frustrate the Spanish defenders in the first of the extra time.

Xabi Alonso put his side on the lead in the 107th minute with his brilliant free-kick. His winning goal sealed the day's result. By losing the game, Bafana secured the fourth position of the tournament.

Spain is the record breaking team; they never lost a game since November 2006, until they lost 2-nil and knocked out from the Confederations Cup final by the United States of America (USA) at the semifinals.

Scooping the Euro 2008 cup boosted the Spaniards winning confidence. They opened the tournament by beating New Zealand 5-nil, Iraq 1-nil and the host South Africa 2-nil.

On the other hand, Bafana played a goalless draw against the Asian champions, Iraq, beat New Zealand 2-nil and one loss to Spain.

Spain qualified to the semifinals without conceding a goal or losing a match. They led group A with twelve points and eight goals.

South Africa was booted out to play at the finals against the USA by the five-time world champions, Brazil at Ellis Park on Thursday.

It remains to be seen if the Americans will continue with their unforgettable victories in their country's soccer history when they take on the defending champions of the Confederations Cup, Brazil at Ellis Park Stadium at 8:30pm tonight.

The Confederations Cup was originally organised by and held in Saudi-Arabia. It was known as the King Fahd cup, contested in 1992 and 1995 by Saudi national side and other continental champions.

In 1997, FIFA took over the organisation of the tournament and named it the FIFA Confederations Cup, and staged the competition after two years.

From 2005, the tournament has been held once every four years, one year prior to each World Cup in the host country of the forthcoming World Cup.

The Confederations Cup is now considered a dress-rehearsal for the World Cup it precedes.