The first round of group games at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup produced 16 goals with Brazil and Italy nervously edging out their Group B opponents and Spain playing some scintilating football in Group A.
June 15, 2009
Italy 3-1 USA
A weak Azzurri first half showed little of the squad’s promise to compete for the Cup. Italy started with a familiar midfield line-up from previous international tournaments with Nicola Legrottaglie stepping up to replace the injured Fabio Cannavaro in defence. Alberto Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta started as the Azzurri front line. America opened with a 4-4-1-1 with Landon Donovan playing just in behind Jozy Altidore and driving the USA forward.
A flat first half was brought to life after 33 minutes when Ricardo Clark’s challenge was deemed dangerous by the match officials and he was sent off. Replays show a blatant attempt to kick Gennaro Gattuso and a deserved red card for Clark. Moments later, Italy survived a similar scare when Fabio Grosso raised his arm to bring down Donavan on the edge of the area. Receiving just a yellow card for his infringement, USA felt hard done by and increased their tempo to push the Italian backline. Failing to deal with Altidore’s physical prowess, Giorgio Chiellini brought down the American striker in the box and conceded the penalty. Donavan stroked the ball right of Gianluigi Buffon to mark his 110th cap with a goal.
In the second half, Italy began to use the ball far more effectively although it was not until American-born Giuseppe Rossi entered the frame that they showed enterprise up-front. Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo replaced Gattuso and Mauro Camoranesi on the 56th minute and within two minutes the impact was tremendous. With the first solo effort of the competition, Rossi stole the ball off the American midfield before rifling the ball with his left foot from all of the 30 yards past the despairing Tim Howard. The goal was undeserved but turned the game well and truly against the 10 men of the USA. As the game approached the final stages, Daniele De Rossi broke down the last of American defences and guided the ball past Howard, again from well outside the American penalty area. Their efforts were admirable but ultimately the main difference set the result once Italy gained their goal-scoring touch. Deep into injury-time Rossi added his second, this time with his right, to send Marcello Lippi a clear message that he is ready to start in Italy’s challenging fixture against Egypt on Thursday.
Brazil 4-3 Egypt
In the most exciting opening round game, Brazil beat Egypt 4-3 at Free State Stadium on Monday evening. Brazil started with their unique box 4-4-2 relying on full-backs Dani Alves and Kleber for the team’s width. Kaka and Elano provided the support for Luis Fabiano and Robinho up-front for the Copa America Champions. Egypt looked to counter Brazil’s tactic with a compact midfield opting for a 4-1-3-2 and working hard throughout the contest, relying on Mohamed Zidan and Wael Gomaa for creativity at the front of their line-up.
The game itself was packed with action from the first to last moments in a contest which surprisingly saw Egypt claim 52% of possession. Brazil started earliest with Dani Alves finding Kaka on the edge of the box ready for the new Galactico to lob one player, then two more, and find the centre of the goal underneath the approaching goalkeeper. Two minutes later, and still not 10 minutes gone, the sides were level when Mohamed Aboutrika and Ahmed Fathi combined well down the right to find the open target of Zidan in the centre who headed in to equalise at 1-1.
Again, a period of two minutes was the time in separating the goals as Brazil once more resumed the lead. Elano’s delivery from a set-piece 40 yards out and on the right-hand side of pitch found Luis Fabiano who simply continued the ball along its path and beyond Essam Al Hadry in the Egypt net. Brazil showed a resilience not present after their first goal and held possession for long periods of the first half before Juan converted Elano’s corner to take the South Americans two ahead. The first half coasted to an end but gave Egypt a nothing-to-lose attitude that would mark the second period.
Eight minutes into the second period and a failed attack down the Egyptian left meant the ball broke to the edge of the area to midfielder Mohamed Shawky who drove it through the on-coming defenders and low past Julio Cesar. Egypt had hope and it looked warranted. The score board had barely updated when Brazil gave the ball away, Egypt attacked with pace and determination leaving Zidan to claim his second, and the equaliser, with a left-footed drive into the bottom corner. The passion of the Egyptian crowd had forced its way on the field and the side had unexpectedly drawn level.
Egypt asserted themselves on the game and kept enough possession to reverse the first-half stats in their favour. A quiet period (by the game’s explosive standards) ensued but not without one final piece of late drama. Pushing for the winner, a Brazilian set-piece from the right found Lucio unmarked and he swept the ball towards goal only for is effort to be blocked on the line and a corner given. However, replays indicated that Ahmed Al Muhamadi had handled the ball and, although it appears unclear how referee Howard Webb deciphered what had unfolded, he was shown a red card and the penalty awarded. Kaka stepped up to break Egyptian hearts that had so proudly forced their way back in to a memorable game in Free State.
June 14, 2009
South Africa 0-0 Iraq
The first game of the tournament came from the packed-out Ellis Park in Johannesburg. South Africa started without star Stephen Pienaar due to illness and opted for a 3-5-2 which suites their play perfectly. The players are energetic and skilful, moving the ball between their feet effortlessly and flooding forward at every opportunity. Iraq, who have already suffered the disappointment of again not qualifying for the World Cup (they have qualified just once, in 1986), started with the same line-up that faced Poland midweek. They began with a 4-4-2, no doubt hoping to suppress the South African attacks and hoping for a chance later on in the contest.
South Africa started with a flourish of opportunities but they rarely came from inside the box and even more rarely did they challenge Iraqi goalkeeper Mohammed Kassid. Two powerless attempts from Bernard Parker came either side of MacBeth Sibaya’s effort which forced Mohammed Kassid to tip wide. Manager Joel Santana would undoubtedly have been satisfied with the first half performance even if South Africa did little to show a clinical instinct in front of goal. Iraq had completed their aim of containment though any hope of a winner in the second half seemed forlorn.
Parker opened the South African shot tally for the second half as he drove low in to Mohammed Kassid’s arms with an effort far more wicked than his feeble first half tries. Clear cut chances were spurned by substitute Katlego Mashego and Parker once more with Mohammed Kassid again impressing on both occasions. Then one of the most bizarre incidents denied South Africa the lead. Siboniso Gaxa put the ball into the area from a deep wide-right position, eluding the attempt of Parker to get his head on it before finding Kagisho Dikgachoi with the goal at his mercy. Heading the ball down and past the futile attempts of Mohammed Kassid to tip the cross away, Dikgachoi must of thought he had done more than enough to score the goal and three points for his national side. However, Parker (who had been unable to stop his momentum after missing his attempt at the header) cruelly found himself on the goal line and in the only place he could block his teammate’s header. With it, South Africa resigned themselves to a draw and a point that leaves them desperate for a win against New Zealand. Iraq definitely went away the happier team as the squads headed off to watch their next opponents over at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.
Spain 5-0 New Zealand
Spain started with a diamond in midfield with Cesc Fabregas providing the support to Fernando Torres and David Villa and Albert Riera and Xavi in the wider positions. Xabi Alonso sat deep in the centre enabling a free-license for the others as well as the full-backs. New Zealand opted to stick with the side that lost 4-3 to Azzurri on Wednesday night – a 4-4-1-1 with Celtic’s Chris Killen and former AFC Wimbledon striker Shane Smeltz retaining their places as the front pair.
Spain looked like a class apart as they tore the desperate New Zealand defence to shreds within 25 minutes ensuring that the second half would simply be a formality. When Torres claimed his first goal after six minutes, the ruthless Spanish mood was set. Fabregas held on to the ball just long enough for the Kiwi defence to open and allow Torres to curl the ball high and around the New Zealand goalkeeper.
Torres shot his way to the top of the goal rankings with two in four minutes to end any Kiwi hopes. Firstly, played in to the box by Riera, Villa had the simple task of rolling the ball back to Torres to net his second of game, this time low and into the far corner. Moments later, as the game turned in to its 18th minute, Joan Capdevilla was forced a little wide by Riera and with all the time in the world he placed the ball on Torres’ head for him to claim an 11-minute hat-trick and with it, the game.
Spain could have easily dropped back a little but with their desire to press on with their naturally beautiful football they created the fourth goal of the game – a wonderful team move which saw Torres, Xavi and Riera all involved before Fabregas stroked Capdevilla’s pass in to the back of the net. Although New Zealand showed a little more endeavour than Iraq, the first half held little promise for them.
The second half was one of relatively little action compared to the first with Spain controlling the entire period as the finest way to stop New Zealand from finding a way back in to the match. A missed opportunity to clear a Torres cross by Andy Boyens allowed Villa to claim his first of the tournament whilst permitting Vicente Del Bosque to replace Torres, Sergio Ramos and Xavi ready for the match against Iraq. Villa provided the only other shot of note with a rasping effort that went narrowly past Glen Moss’ goal.
2009 FIFA Confederations Cup fixtures & results
South Africa 0-0 Iraq – June 14, 2009 – Johannesburg
Spain 5-0 New Zealand – June 14, 2009 – Rustenburg
Spain vs. Iraq – June 17, 2009 – Bloemfontein
South Africa vs. New Zealand – June 17, 2009 – Rustenburg
New Zealand vs. Iraq – June 20, 2009 – Johannesburg
South Africa vs. Spain – June 20, 2009 – Bloemfontein
Standings after one game – Spain 3, Iraq 1, South Africa 1, New Zealand 0
Brazil 4-3 Egypt – June 15, 2009 -Bloemfontein
Italy 3-1 USA – June 15, 2009 – Pretoria
USA vs. Brazil– June 18, 2009 – Pretoria
Italy vs. Egypt – June 18, 2009 – Johannesburg
Italy vs. Brazil – June 21, 2009 – Pretoria
Egypt vs. USA – June 21, 2009 – Rustenburg
Standings after one game – Italy 3, Brazil 3, Egypt 0, USA 0
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up – June 24, 2009 – Bloemfontein
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up – June 25, 2009 -Johannesburg
Third place play-off
Semi-final 1 runner-up vs. Semi-final 2 runner-up – June 28, 2009 – Rustenburg
Semi-final 1 winner vs. Semi-final 2 winner – June 28, 2009 – Johannesburg