Day: June 21, 2009

The Confederations Cup: Brazil 3-0 Italy

It’s worth remembering on evenings such as this that, much as some people used to make a degree of noise about South Americans not travelling well, no European side has ever won the World Cup outside of Europe. Anyone expecting this situation to change next summer may wish to take this evening’s match between Brazil and Italy as proof – as if it were needed – that Brazil might be just the team to stop the Spanish juggernaut. Italy, who had been slowly grinding to a halt since flattering to deceive in beating the USA a week ago, had been resembling one of those YouTube videos of an animal falling asleep and then forcing itself to wake up again. This evening, they fell asleep for eight minutes just before half-time and by the time they had jolted themselves back into life they were three goals down and heading out of the competition. It was, by any standards, an extraordinary evening of football and it was crowned by one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of international football. At seven-thirty, the USA needed a six goal turnaround to get through. This would have seemed beyond anyone, and this wasn’t even taking into account the fact that the USA were playing anĀ  Egypt side that had been outstanding in beating Italy during the week. For at least forty-five minutes,...

Read More

The Confederations Cup: Spain 2-0 South Africa

South Africa, horns and all, have edged their way into the semi-finals of this year’s Confederations Cup, but their doing so has been something of a hollow victory for them, as we saw last night. Their procession through to the semi-finals was more about the shortcomings of others than about anything that they managed themselves. For Spain, meanwhile, came a further extension to their extraordinary unbeaten record and a brand new record for successive wins, now up to fifteen. Whether anybody will be able to keep them in check at the World Cup finals next year is the question that is taxing most people. It is not a question that is being asked of South Afria. The first half was an uneventful affair. Spain had made seven changes from their previous match though this was still an exceptionally strong side. The widespread changes, however, seemed to disrupt their flow. This was not the same Spain side – neither literally nor metaphorically – that brushed New Zealand aside last weekend, and the changes seemed to suit the host nation. Spain stuttered and stalled, allowing South Africa far too much possession. It looked, however, as if the shortcomings that the hosts had shown in their previous matches – the hurried, almost panicky shooting and the reasonably neat interplay spoilt by poor finishing that is, to put it plainly, the hallmark of...

Read More