Spain v Iraq, Confederations Cup, June 17, 2009
Who can stop Euro 2008 winners Spain? After 33 consecutive games without defeat a win for Iraq in this match would make a mockery of their â€œsurpriseâ€ 2007 Asian Cup victory which enabled them to play in the Confederations Cup in the first place. (Iraq are 20/1 to win the match and 8/1 to draw.)
Spainâ€™s 5-0 win over New Zealand on Monday suggested that it is almost unfair for some international teams to have to take on the best side in world football. Fabregas, Xavi, Torres, Villa et al were in sensational form and took their foot off the gas once they were 4-0 ahead after 24 minutes.
Fernando Torres claimed a fine eleven minute hat-trick and the quality of Spainâ€™s passing was too much for New Zealand. El Nino is in fine form at the back end of the season; he scored in Liverpoolâ€™s final game of the campaign against Spurs and also claimed another goal in Spainâ€™s friendly win over Azerbaijan at the beginning of the month. (Torres is 10/1 to repeat his hat-trick heroics against Iraq.)
The strength in depth at the disposal of Vicente Del Bosque is illustrated by the fact that injuries to Marcos Senna and Andres Iniesta have been easily papered over by the introduction of Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregeas, two players that would walk into any other international side in the world.
The structure of the Confederations Cup unfortunately means Spain will obliterate their opponents in their group whilst Brazil, USA, Italy and Egypt all tussle in tight encounters in the other. With Spain establishing themselves as the best international side in the world, and early favourites to win the World Cup, it is a shame they will not be tested as much as they could have been.
Iraqâ€™s midfielder Nashat Akram, who will be playing at Steve McClarenâ€™s FC Twente next season, summed up the mood in the camp: “We are so proud to be in this competition and to get a chance to be on the pitch with the stars. It will be a very tough game, they have so many quality players. We’ll do our best.”
The Lions of Mesopotamia put up a decent performance in their opening game to claim a point in a goalless draw with South Africa. Their defence however is a weakness and it is almost impossible to see Spain failing to score, with Villa (the future Real Madrid/Barcelona or Manchester United striker is 9/4 to score two of more) and Torres likely to have a field day.
Akram is one of Iraqâ€™s key players but he is likely to be chasing after the ball once Spain get their passing game going. Strikers Younis Mahmoud (4/1 to score) and Emad Mohamed (11/2 to score) are also dangerous although perhaps not against the number one side in the world.
If Spain do win they will equal the longest consecutive winning run in international football (14 games) and can also qualify for the semi-finals. Money can be claimed from the bookies by going for a big scoreline and correct scorers, there is simply no doubt who will emerge as the winners in this match-up.
101gg predicts: Spain 5 â€“ Iraq 0 (10/1)
Full match odds here.