After putting five past New Zealand, Spain are intent on maintaining their fierce rhythm against Iraq. The Asian champions were a little fortunate to take a point from their opening game against South Africa, with the tournament hosts missing several clear chances in the closing stages, while their European counterparts showed no mercy to the Kiwis. Leading their first-half charge on Sunday was Fernando Torres, who scored the quickest hat-trick in the history of both the tournament and the Spanish national team.
"We've come here to reach the next round," declared Iraq midfielder Nashat Akram at the end of their match with the South Africans. And having taken a point from the hosts, he and his team-mates are entitled to feel confident about achieving their objective.
Their task now will be to repeat Sunday's clean sheet against Spain's formidable forward line. With that in mind, their Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic will be sending out the five-man rearguard that defended so stoically against Bafana Bafana, while hoping that captain Younis Mahmoud can make the most of any chances that come his way on the counter.
For his part Vicente del Bosque is likely to keep faith with the midfield line-up that performed so well in the absence of the injured Andres Iniesta. Albert Riera showed against the New Zealanders that he has much to offer on the left flank, the source of all five of Spain's goals against the Kiwis. While he surely entrust Torres and David Villa with goalscoring duties again, Del Bosque may be tempted to make a change or two at the back.
Fernando Torres vs Mohammed Kassid
Thanks to a mixture of good fortune and good positioning, the Iraqi keeper managed to keep the South Africans at bay in Sunday's tournament opener, denying Bernard Parker, Katlego Mashego and Teko Modise with some fine reflex stops. But with Spain and their fearsome strike force up next, there is sure to be plenty more work for the Al Zawraa custodian to get through on Wednesday evening.
Fresh from scoring three at the weekend, El Niño poses the greatest threat to Kassid's goal. And should the Liverpool striker enjoy an off-night, the Spanish can always rely on Villa, who became the second-highest scorer in their history when he bagged a hat-trick of his own in last week's warm-up match against Azerbaijan.
The only previous meeting between the two countries came at youth level. Kareem Wali and Laith Shabib scored Iraq's goals in a surprise 2-0 victory over a side containing the likes of Santiago Canizares and Albert Ferrer, who would both go on to win the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
13 - The number of consecutive wins that Spain have now accumulated. Should the Spanish beat Iraq, they will equal the record held jointly by Australia, Brazil and France. A win or a draw would also stretch their unbeaten run to 34 games.
Did you know?
Dutch for "fountain of flowers", few South African cities have as strong a Dutch influence as Bloemfontein, the venue for Wednesday's game. Fittingly, Iraq star Akram will be moving to the Netherlands next season, having signed a three-year deal with Twente. Even though he is only 24, the midfielder has plenty of experience under his belt, making his debut for his country as a 16-year old and amassing 70 caps since then.
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David Villa was the leading goalscorer at UEFA EURO 2008. Can strike partner Fernando Torres take the honours this time or will someone else claim the adidas Golden Shoe? Click on ‘Add you comment' and let us know your opinion.