Saturday night fever in Bloem
It proved to be an historic evening for Spain and South Africa in Bloemfontein. Despite going down to defeat to the European champions, the FIFA Confederations Cup hosts held on to second place in Group A, thus securing a place in the final phase of a FIFA tournament for the first time ever.
Spain were also celebrating as the vuvuzelas blared out at Free State Stadium, and not without good reason. The 2-0 victory was their 15th win in a row, a new record, and also took their unbeaten run to 35 games, equalling the mark set by Brazil in the mid-1990s. All that remains to be seen now is whether La Roja can make it 36 in the semi-finals, where A Seleçao could well be their opponents.
In the other game in the section, Iraq and New Zealand played out a goalless draw and bade farewell to the tournament without having scored a single goal in their three games, just as Canada and Greece did in 2001 and 2005 respectively. On the bright side for the All Whites, they did at least avoid defeat for the first time in a FIFA Confederations Cup match, having lost all eight of their previous games in the competition.
Goal of the day
David Villa, 51: The Valencia striker made immediate amends for his penalty miss five minutes after half-time. Seconds after seeing Itumeleng Khune push away his spot-kick, Villa cushioned an Albert Riera cross and volleyed the ball on the turn, sending it past Khune's despairing dive and into the back of the net. The goal was the first the South Africa keeper had conceded in the tournament and maintained Villa's magnificent scoring streak for La Roja. He has now been on target 13 times in his last 13 internationals.
From joy to despair, 51 mins: Not many keepers manage to keep out a David Villa penalty, especially on their 22nd birthday. But just seconds after denying Villa from the spot and then Carles Puyol from the rebound, Itumeleng Khune was fishing the ball out of the back of the net, having been comprehensively beaten by Villa's sublime volleyed cross-shot.
One on one, 11 minutes: Khune's New Zealand counterpart Glen Moss had a day to remember, playing a decisive part in his side's draw with Iraq. Moss was called into action almost immediately, keeping his cool as Emad Mohamed bore down on goal and pulling off a brave stop. The missed opportunity seemed to deflate Bora Milutinovic's side, who faded as the match wore on and were fortunate to come away with a point.
15 - The number of consecutive wins Spain have now put together, surpassing the previous best of 14 set by Brazil, France and Australia. The Spaniards began their victorious run with a 2-0 defeat of Russia in the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2008, having knocked out Italy on penalties in the previous round. The only man to feature in every match of the history-making run is Xavi.
In the crowd
Putting their raucous vuvuzelas to one side for a moment, the South Africa fans crammed into Free State Stadium, joined as one to give a rousing rendition of the national anthem, drawing warm applause from the visibly impressed Spanish delegation. Over at Ellis Park, meanwhile, the neutrals gave their unconditional support to the Kiwis, striking up the famous Shosholoza folk song in a bid to inspire the Oceanian champions, while keeping one ear on their radios to check on Bafana Bafana's fortunes against Spain.
"Xavi definitely deserves the Man of the Match title. He made the difference today. 97 of his 107 passes were completed and 12 of his 13 long passes were also complete. Extraordinary job Xavi! Congratulations!" Fernando.M writing in the FanChat of the EMIRATES MatchCast during Spain's 2-0 win over South Africa.
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