Hosts held as Spain run riot
It was a day of contrasts on the opening day of the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. Whereas the hosts and Iraq played out a goalless draw in Johannesburg, Spain put five past New Zealand in Rustenburg. And while one striker, Fernando Torres was the toast of his country for hitting a record-breaking hat-trick, another, Bernard Parker, was the focus of the fans' frustration after missing three opportunities and unwittingly blocking a match-winning goal for his team.
Yet despite some disappointment with the final score, it was a day of pride and celebration for the South African people who relished their day in the winter sun. The opening ceremony and the speeches given by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and South African President Jacob Zuma were enthusiastically received by those who heard them and the volume created by the singing of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, the country's anthem, seemed to shake Ellis Park to its very foundations.
It was just a shame that those fans could not celebrate a goal, but they did come close. Aside from Parker's block, Macbeth Sibaya's swerving shot flew past the post, Kagisho Dikacoi saw his header flash narrowly over the crossbar and substitute Katlego Mashego fired straight at goalkeeper Mohammed Kassid when presented with a one-on-one opportunity.
In contrast, Spain took their chances, with Torres giving a masterclass in finishing. The Budweiser Man of the Match broke the deadlock after six minutes, then added his second and third in the 14th and 17th minutes. Cesc Fabregas made it four seven minutes later before David Villa completed the rout early in the second half. Despite a committed performance from the Kiwis, it was all very straightforward for Spain, who have further reinforced their credentials to win the tournament in two weeks time.
Goal of the day
New Zealand-Spain, Fernando Torres, 6': Although there were three to choose from, the first was arguably the pick of the bunch. Receiving the ball from fellow Premier League star Cesc Fabregas on the edge of the box, the 25-year-old Liverpool striker took one touch to steady himself before sending a right-foot shot beyond the outstretched dive of New Zealand keeper Glen Moss and into the top corner.
Bafana Bafana's bad luck (84'): With time ticking away in the Opening Match between the hosts and the Asian champions, Siboniso Gaxa sent a dangerous cross into the box from the right, Iraq goalkeeper Kassid failed to claim the ball and Dikgacoi's header looked certain to cross the line only for the ball to bounce off team-mate Parker and away to safety, with the South African fans already preparing to celebrate their side's opener. At the point of impact, the forward did not realise what had happened, but the replays of the incident may live with him for a long while yet.
Boyens' blip (48'): In the final ten minutes of the first half and in the early exchanges of the second, Ricki Herbert's All Whites had the better of the play, but a quick counter-attack from Spain three minutes after the restart put them on the back foot once more. Their chief tormentor, Torres, broke down the left and put a low cross into the box. It looked like a routine clearance for central defender Andy Boyens but he failed to make a connection, thus allowing the ball to break for David Villa, who was presented with the easiest of chances to side-foot home.
11 - What a way to score your first hat-trick at a FIFA tournament! Torres, Spain and Liverpool's No9, netted in the sixth, 14th and 17th minutes to secure his place in the record books for the quickest treble in FIFA Confederations Cup history. Ironically, he has taken the record from former Anfield man Vladimir Smicer who took 29 minutes to score three for Czech Republic in a 6-1 win over United Arab Emirates in 1997.
For a more in-depth statistical look at the day's action, be sure to read FIFA.com's ‘Day 1 in numbers' piece. Click on the link on the right hand side for the full story.
In the crowd
Not only was the game between the hosts and Iraq the first match of a FIFA tournament to take place on South African soil, it was also the match which introduced the vuvuzela to a global audience. Millions of people all over the world heard the sound of the instrument being blown by the majority of the crowd, which added a different dimension to the already colourful atmosphere at Ellis Park.
"Everyone, even the perfect player needs to improve. You don't stop improving, but Torres is on the top of his game at the moment. He's involved in everything and just has a gift in putting the ball into the net. He makes it look simple," Barcha_No1.
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