Records tumble and crowds erupt
Wednesday 17 June, the second Group A matchday at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, will go down as a day when records tumbled. Joint-favourites Spain became the first nation through to the semi-finals after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over defensively disciplined Iraq, while hosts South Africa beat New Zealand 2-0 to chalk up a maiden FIFA Confederations Cup success and send the Rainbow Nation into collective rapture.
The European champions were more subdued in front of goal on this occasion, but the Mangaung/Bloemfontein crowd were still witnesses to events of weighty significance. Match-winner David Villa netted his 30th goal for Spain to become his country’s second highest scorer of all time behind 44-goal Raul. The Furia Roja also recorded a 14th victory on the spin, equalling the record currently shared by Australia, Brazil and France.
Later in the evening, Rustenburg provided the stage for a glorious prelude to next year’s main event. Bafana Bafana proved to their own fans and the world at large that they occupy a place among the international elite by right, while the crowd laid on a magnificent display of colour and passion as a foretaste of what is to come at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
Spain 1-0 Iraq
South Africa 2-0 New Zealand
Follow the links on the right-hand side to read the reports from both games.
Goal of the day
South Africa-New Zealand, Bernard Parker (52): Will the Bafana Bafana hitman ever wash his right knee again? That was the body part with which Bernard Parker steered his side's second goal over the line, effectively sealing victory and a historic evening for South Africa. The decisive goal was an almost perfect carbon copy of the move that led to the opener, with exactly the same lead characters. On both occasions, Parker popped up in the right place at the right time to meet crosses from the left by winger Tsepo Masilela.
Thunderous farewell for a freshly-minted hero: The Royal Bafokeng Stadium video screen showed 81 minutes played when the crowd rose as one to salute Bernard Parker, who made his way back to the dugout to a moving standing ovation. Coach Joel Santana provided the 23-year-old with his moment of glory as a reward for his double strike earlier in the evening. The striker, on the books at famous Serbian club Crvena Zvezda, will surely have lapped up the applause and adulation even more than normal in the light of the jeers that greeted a couple of unfortunate moments in his country’s opening match.
The cast-iron confidence of a man certain of success: Grim faces on the touchline and the hesitancy induced by a restless crowd are the stuff of history for the reigning European champions and their coach. Just as the Spanish turned up the heat on the Iraqi defence midway through the first half, Vicente del Bosque turned his back on his hustling and bustling stars, a symbolic show of blind faith in his team. Laughing and gesticulating, the coach was only too happy to engage in a few words of banter with two colourfully face-painted Spanish followers. Check out this light-hearted scene for yourself by scrolling through the photos on the right-hand side.
13 – In their last 15 matches, the team currently top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking have kept an astonishing 13 clean sheets. The Spaniards' attacking unit, brimming with precise short passes and flowing movement off the ball, undoubtedly form a supremely effective first line of defence. Only Belgium and Turkey – who both ended up losing 2-1 at home to Spain in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers – have managed to crack the all but watertight Spanish rearguard.
For a more in-depth statistical look at the day's action, be sure to read FIFA.com's 'Day 3 in numbers' piece. Follow the link on the right hand side for the full story.
In the crowd
South Africa is a football-mad nation, and the crowd in Mangaung/Bloemfontein showed that the game is also a platform for revelry and celebration on a gigantic scale. The Spain-Iraq clash was still goalless after 44 minutes, so the fans took matters into their own hands. A Mexican wave erupted from nowhere, followed by a thunderous and sustained round of applause. The rhythmic ritual continued right through the half-time interval until five minutes after the restart, as the boisterous crowd simply decided to lay on a spectacle for themselves.
A touch of Latin American flair infused Rustenburg too. Quite apart from rolling Mexican waves, the thumping African drums began pounding out an unmistakeable Samba beat. The combination, out of the ordinary to say the least, provided yet another appetite-whetting moment on the road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The atmosphere at the Bafana Bafana fixture proved once again that the world’s favourite game holds a special place in everyone’s heart in the vivacious nation of South Africa.
"South Africa was on fire. Excellent passing, ball control and an overall pleasing game. Well done boys, awesome victory!" linguistix pays tribute to Bafana Bafana.
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