For South Africa, the waiting is almost over. Tomorrow will witness the opening exchanges of the eighth FIFA Confederations Cup as the hosts take on Iraq before New Zealand square up to Spain. In this, the first of FIFA.com's statistical matchday previews, we reflect on some mixed omens for Bafana Bafana, look at David Villa's pursuit of Spain's all-time leading scorers and recall one match New Zealand would much rather forget.
centimetres tall, South Africa defender Matthew Booth is the FIFA Confederations Cup's undisputed giant. An obvious threat at set pieces, the 6fts 6ins centre-half's presence in the opening match will be all the more worrying for Iraq as the Asians, with an average height of 177cm, are the tournament's shortest team.
goals, an average of 3.3-per-match, have been served up in opening matches at the previous seven editions of the FIFA Confederations Cup. The highest-scoring and most one-sided of these curtain-raisers came in 2001, when Korea Republic crumbled to a 5-0 defeat on home soil against eventual champions France. Perhaps worryingly for South Africa, only one host nation has ever won the tournament's inaugural fixture and 17 years have now passed since Saudi Arabia did so, putting three unanswered goals past USA in the FIFA Confederations Cup's first-ever fixture.
of Spain's UEFA EURO 2008 heroes have been named in Vicente del Bosque's South Africa 2009 squad. The European champions will, however, have to cope without two-thirds of the feted midfield trio who were so impressive and influential throughout their continental conquest. While the unhurried precision passing of Xavi will again be key to their hopes, Andres Iniesta and Marcos Senna - a talented and experienced pair with 59 caps between them - have been robbed of the chance to compete by ill-timed injuries.
goals flashed into New Zealand's net the last and only time the Kiwis locked horns with Spain at a FIFA tournament. The thumping 13-0 defeat at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Egypt 1997 remains a tournament record, and among the teams' respective substitutes that day were two of the likely protagonists in Rustenburg, Iker Casillas and Ben Sigmund.
games, three defeats: that is the record with which Iraq departed their only previous senior national FIFA competition: the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™. The Iraqis lost out to Paraguay, Belgium and hosts Mexico, with the latter defeat one of only 17 in FIFA World Cup history to be watched by a crowd of over 100,000.
more goals are all that David Villa now requires to become Spain's second-highest all-time scorer. The Valencia striker's hat-trick in Tuesday's 6-0 friendly win over Azerbaijan took him on to 28, beyond both Emilio Butragueno (26) and Fernando Morientes (27). Villa now occupies third position in La Roja's goalscoring hall of fame, but although another strike will take him level with Fernando Hierro, he still has some work to do if he is to threaten Raul's record tally of 44.