Spain v South Africa, Confederations Cup, June 20, 2009
The South African national team is one step away from reaching the Confederations Cup semi-finals. But in order for the Bafana Bafana to make it through the group stage and achieve much needed confidence ahead of the World Cup next year, they will have to put in an impressive performance against Spain on Sunday. A loss against the European champions (Spain are 4/6 to win) combined with Iraq beating New Zealand may well keep the South Africans out of the semis.
Bafana Bafana started the tournament with an unimpressive 0-0 draw against Iraq. Coach Joel Santana opted to use three defensive midfielders in a 4-3-1-2 formation, which proved unsuccessful. South Africa did control the tempo of the match but lacked good wing penetration, as both full-backs (Gaxa and Mesilela) played as wingers. It was clear that the team is much more used to playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation in which two of the three attacking midfielders fill the flanks.
Steven Piennar (4/1 to score) was clearly missed in the match against Iraq, which was further highlighted in the hosts’ victory against New Zealand. Santana went back to using two orthodox defensive midfielders only and used the talented Teko Modise and Piennar in the wide areas of the pitch. South Africa played a 4-4-2 formation with Bernard Parker playing as a supporting striker to Terror Fanteni, who sadly had another unimpressive game as a target man.
Parker, though, proved the star of the show. His powerful runs up-front and excellent positioning during attacks, combined with mobility, high work-rate and natural speed embarrassed the New Zealand defence time after time. Parker proved that he should play as a striker, through the middle, and not a winger. (Parker is 11/1 to be the first goalscorer.)
Should Santana go back to a five-man midfield formation, as expected in trying to overload the middle third to try and stifle the European champions’ metronomic passing, Bafana Bafana may lose his most effective weapon up front – Parker. Spain is indeed a magnificent attacking team but South Africa only have a chance against them, and that’s to continue to play attacking football with two strikers.
Another player who has the ability to create problems for the Spanish side is Israeli-based attacking left back Tshepo Mesilela, who created Parker’s two goals against New Zealand. Mesilela, who suffered from a niggling groin injury during the season with Maccabi Haifa, can be very dangerous with his bursts down the left flank.
Spain, who already qualified for the semi-finals, put in a lacklustre performance against the tight defence of Iraq in their second match of the games. But, by contrast, South Africa lack the defensive capabilities which the Asians possessed. Thinking optimistically, the result should expect an attractive match in which both sides will try to attack whenever possible.
After a long season, a number of Spainâ€™s high-profile players may be rested and with the support of the local fans, South Africa just might be able to surprise the European champions.
Full match odds can be seen here.