Spain-South Africa preview
La Roja and Bafana Bafana are in contrasting states of mind going into this match for third place. While the South Africans could take great pride from holding Brazil until two minutes from time in their semi-final, Spain are still licking their wounds after USA brought their 35-game unbeaten run and 15-match winning streak to a dramatic end. For the Spaniards, missing out on the chance to pit their wits against Brazil in the final proved almost as painful as having their bubble of invincibility burst.
It was only eight days ago when Vicente del Bosque sent out a reshuffled side to face the tournament hosts with qualification for the semi-finals already secured. The Spain coach could well resort to his second-choice players once more on Sunday, albeit for entirely different reasons. Whatever changes he does make, it should not be seen as punishment for the players who lost out to USA. La Roja enjoyed 56 per cent possession against the Americans, won 17 corners and fired in 19 shots, 11 of them on goal, more than in their resounding 5-0 defeat of New Zealand. Faced with Bob Bradley's tactically disciplined side, there was not much more Del Bosque's men could have done.
As for South Africa, their place in the history books is secure after reaching the last four of a major international competition for the first time ever. On top of all that they gave the five-time world champions a stern test in the semi-final, a performance that has boosted their confidence as they prepare to host the world's best in 12 months time. In recognition of that, coach Joel Santana will most likely keep faith with the side that filled him with pride on Thursday evening, though he may be tempted to make a change or two up front.
Although the Athletic Bilbao striker is not a certain starter, he is almost sure to make an appearance at some stage, giving him the chance to repeat his performance against the South Africans last weekend, when he scored within moments of coming on as a substitute. One man out to stop him will be the towering centre-half, one of the host nation's surprise over-achievers at this tournament.
David Villa and Fernando Llorente were the men on target in last Saturday's match between the two sides. Their only previous meeting before this tournament came in the group phase of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, with La Roja winning 3-2.
3 - The number of goals that adidas Golden Shoe candidates Fernando Torres and David Villa have scored in South Africa. The deadly twosome will be hoping to add to their hauls on Sunday as they bid for the coveted award.
Did you know?
Spain have played African opposition four times so far this century, winning every match to date, two of them against their opponents on Sunday.
"We're annoyed and we're hurting, but this is sport and sportsmen have to know how to react after a setback," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque
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