An unappetising starter preceded a sumptuous Spanish main course on the opening day of South Africa's fortnight-long feast of football. Throughout the FIFA Confederations Cup, FIFA.com and Castrol Insights will be casting an eye over numbers behind the results, and today we kick things off with reports of a record-breaking booking, an industrious midfielder and one particularly prolific striker.
The teamOn a day when three of the four combatants found goals distinctly hard to come by, Spain proved a refreshing exception. The European champions are becoming well-known for their free-scoring opening matches, having kicked off their 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ and UEFA EURO 2008 campaigns by putting four goals past Ukraine (4-0) and Russia (4-1) respectively. Today, they went one better with a 5-0 win over New Zealand, becoming only the third side in history to score four goals in the first half of a FIFA Confederations Cup fixture.
For a time, it looked as if Vicente Del Bosque's side might even rack up the biggest win in the competition's history, but an easing off in the second half ensured Brazil's emphatic scorelines against Australia (6-0, 1997) and Saudi Arabia (8-2, 1999) continue to set the standard.
The playersAhead of Spain's showdown with New Zealand, all eyes had been on David Villa as he attempted to surpass Fernando Hierro as the second-highest scorer in Spain's history. Yet although the Valencia striker did succeed in joining Hierro on the 29 mark, it was his strike partner who stole the show.
The fastest-ever by a Spain international, Fernando Torres's 11-minute hat-trick was also the quickest in FIFA Confederations Cup history, comfortably surpassing Vladimir Smicer's previous benchmark (29) from Czech Republic's 6-1 win over United Arab Emirates in 1997. Torres's was the eighth treble the tournament has witnessed and the second of the Liverpool's star's international career, with the first having come in a 6-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying win over San Marino in October 2005. The 25-year-old was always likely to hit the target on 14 June, having scored against Ukraine and Sweden on this date in 2006 and 2008 respectively, and his three-goal haul takes him level with Julio Salinas as Spain's seventh-highest all-time scorer on 22, just onebehind the great Alfredo Di Stefano.
Earlier in the day, it had taken only twominutes of the tournament's opening match for Thembinkosi Fanteni to become a reluctant record-breaker. The yellow card collected by the South Africa forward, thoroughly merited by an ugly challenge on Karrar Jassim, was the fastest-ever administered at a FIFA Confederations Cup, eclipsing Denmark's Jes Hogh's three-minute booking against Mexico in 1995.
Iraq failed to sparkle, with playmaker Nashat Akram unable to prise openings in a well-drilled South African defence. However, while Akram did not enjoy his most productive evening, finding team-mates with just 41 per cent of his passes and 17 per cent of his crosses, no-one could question his work-rate. Indeed, no-one worked harder on Day 1 of South Africa 2009, with the Twente midfielder covering over 11 kilometres (11,104 metres) - well above the average of 7.33 km - during the course of the 0-0 draw with South Africa.
The actionGoals, or the lack of them, ensured an unwanted place in FIFA Confederations Cup history for South Africa and Iraq. Never before had an opening match at the Festival of Champions ended goalless, with the previous seven curtain-raisers having averaged an impressive 3.3 goals per game. It was not the only trend bucked in Johannesburg, with the two sides serving up the first-ever draw in five meetings between Asian and African sides at the FIFA Confederations Cup.
*Did you know? *In their opening matches, each of the four Group A teams covered a combined total of 100 kilometres - the equivalent of running from Sun City to Johannesburg. Iraq, who spent much of their 0-0 draw with South Africa on the defensive, were the hardest-working, covering 102,655 metres in all.