Spain v South Africa, Confederations Cup Playoff, June 28, 2009
“We must go back to square one and start putting some more wins together. The most important thing now is that we keep showing the same down-to-earth approach as we did when we went all that time unbeaten. The really big challenges are only just beginning.” – Fernando Torres.
Most sources have latched onto Il Nino’s fighting talk ahead of the Confederations Cup third-place playoff as a prelude to a predicted instantaneous comeback from the European Champions. (Spain are 8/15 to win.) Having beaten Bafana 2-nil in the groups, the defeat was America is thought by most to be a blip, something that is better to happen now than at the World Cup when the Spanish are expected to be one of the tournament’s front-runners.
Yet, if their is ever a time for South Africa to chalk up a famous defeat over the current best team in Europe, then this forgettable match on Sunday could prove the opportunity. (South Africa are 5/1 to win.)
Ahead of the tournament, the hope was that the host nation would not embarrass themselves both off the pitch and on it. A couple of weeks later and many of those fears has fallen by the wayside as Bafana Bafana have silenced their critics and shown that they have improved and developed into an organised unit.
The turning point was undoubtedly their stubborn performance against the Brazilians in the semi-final, when Bafana were sunk by a last-gasp Dani Alves free-kick that saw the hosts knocked-out with their heads held high.
Though, if there is to be a criticism of the South African performances displayed in the tournament it would be that Bafana still lack the cutting-edge and guile up front to hurt the better defenses in world football. Bernard Parker (10/3 to score) has worked tirelessly in leading the line and stepping up as the team’s main goalscorer, however Joel Santana is missing a second striker to play in tandem with Parker and share the workload. (Spain are 5/6 to keep a clean sheet.)
Katlego Mashego or Terror Fanteni (7/2 to score), one of whom will start in the playoff, have both performed below-par on the big stage, and rally calls for Benni McCarthy will likely get nosier as the World Cup approaches. On the positive side, Steven Pienaar (4/1 to score) and Teko Modise have starred in midfield throughout the Confederations Cup offering creativity and offensive support from midfield.
Spain are expected to make changes for this encounter with fringe players from the squad set for a run-out in playoff. In attack Del Bosque will likely rest at least one of his strikers Fernando Torres and David Villa, with Fernando Llorente (4/1 to score first) and Dani Guiza (10/11 to score) ready to step into the forward-line. While changes in midfield could see David Silva, Juan Mata and Sergio Busquets given a chance to impress, although Xavi will likely be keep his place in the centre of the park.
Full match odds here.