FIFA Confederations Cup 2009

Draw offers hosts hope

South Africa's Davids Lance (R) tackles Cameroon's Albert  Meyoug (L)
© AFP

The FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 hosts, South Africa, could not have asked for a better draw as they attempt to fulfil their quest to reach the semi-finals of the competition.

However, European champions Spain will be South Africa's major hurdle in a group where the two sides will be expected to proceed to the next stage. The meeting between these two teams, which will fall on the group's final matchday, will arguably be the most anticipated match-up.

However, both Iraq and New Zealand have warned critics to write them off at their own peril, as they intend putting up a gutsy fight.

While Iraq, South Africa's first opponents in the tournament, have been going through a rough patch, including missing out on qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, they will be travelling to South Africa to salvage some pride and re-launch their ambitions of establishing themselves as a powerhouse not only in Asian football, but in the world.

New Zealand come this event searching for their maiden victory in the FIFA Confederations Cup. In their last two outings at the this event, which accounts for six matches, they tasted defeat in all of them. New Zealand have played South Africa four times, and in all of the matches, South Africa have always emerged victorious.

The favouritesSpain: Undoubtedly, the European champions are the firm favourites in this group following their success at UEFA EURO 2008. Having avoided the likes of Brazil and Italy, La Furia Roja will be anticipating a smooth passage to the knockout stages of the competition.

The outsidersNew Zealand: Most people will expect the Oceanian champions to make an exit from this tournament, but South Africa beware - the Kiwis are ranked 20 places higher in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.

The players to watchIke Casillas (ESP), Benni McCarthy (RSA), Younis Mahmoud (Iraq), Ryan Nelsen (NZL)

The crunch matchThe first and only time these South Africa and Spain have met was in June 2002 at the 2002 FIFA Korea/ Japan World Cup, when the Europeans beat Bafana Bafana 3-2. Many South African fans believed their side deserved more from that encounter, so the meeting on Midsummer's Eve will give them an opportunity to set the record straight.

A look backSouth Africa's only participation at this event was back in 1997, a year after the country's euphoric triumph in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations.

Did you know?New Zealand have never before played a match on African soil.

The questionWill Joel Santana's Bafana Bafana meet the expectations of their fans at a crucial moment in South Africa's football history?

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