Day: June 17, 2009

The Confederations Cup: South Africa 2-0 New Zealand

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The clock was ticking this evening as South Africa’s Confederations Cup bid slowly dragged itself to life this evening, with a performance that added little to the widely held perception that they are likely to be the worst host nation in the history of the World Cup when the show rolls into town. On Sunday, they seemed reasonably resolute defensively but betrayed the key indicator of a team playing at a level above its current station – an inability to score which passed rapidly through farcical to, by the time the ball bounced off Bernard Parker’s backside with five minutes to play, well and truly into the realms of low comedy. For the first twenty minutes this evening, however, the clocked ticked and tocked as South Africa continued to labour unnecessarily against a New Zealand team that was just as limited as it was in conceding four goals in twenty-five minutes against Spain at the weekend. The passing was neat and tidy enough, though they didn’t come under too much pressure to actually stop passing it around, but once they got to the penalty area everything started to go south and they were reduced to speculative shots from improbable angles and unlikely distances. The goal, when it came, was the one occasion upon which everything clicked, although even then they were dependent on a deflection...

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The Confederations Cup: Spain 1-0 Iraq

It took Spain 40 years to rebuild their national team into a championship-winning force, so 55 minutes was never going to be too long to wait.  Still, that’s how long they were kept at bay by Bora Milutinovic’s limited but very well-organised Asian champions. With ten men behind the ball throughout, Iraq stifled the Spanish attack to such a degree that, had it been an incarnation of the same side from a few years ago, one might have wondered an upset was on the cards.  However, the European Champions are very difficult to bargain with at the moment, and that they would eventually get the result was never much in doubt. Still, Vincente del Bosque’s side will be mindful of their need to address their sluggish start.  For all of Iraq’s well-drilled defending, the Asian side’s key weapon was their opponents’ composure in front of goal.  Several very good opportunities went begging before Spain even registered their first shot on target, a tame header by Joan Capdevilla from Xavi’s free kick with 40 minutes played. Iraq will perhaps be disappointed with their defending of set pieces overall, in fact: for such a disciplined side, the majority of their best work stemmed Spain’s ambitions from open play.  When the dead ball routines were brought to bear, however, Iraq always looked a step behind the European Champions.  David Villa, who had...

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