Confederations Cup action round-up – Brazil crowned champions in exciting finale

3rd Place Playoff

June 28, 2009

Spain 3-2 South Africa

Following their shock semi-final exit to the United States, Spain surprisingly made just four changes to the starting XI, with Carles Puyol, Xavi, Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas making way for Alvaro Arbeloa, Raul Albiol, Santi Cazorla and Sergio Busquets. For the second time in the competition they were coming up against the hosts South Africa, who went out to a Dani Alves free-kick in the dying minutes of their semi-final. The hosts were keen to give their fans at least a third place finish and made just one change with Macbeth Sibaya returning from suspension to replace Benson Mhlongo.

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The first half in Rustenburg got underway with the vuvuzelas blaring from the stands, however both sides were edgy and keen not to make mistakes. There were few chances for either side, with the best falling to David Villa, who couldn’t manage to add to his three goals in the tournament, as Itumeleng Khune denied him. At the other end, Bernard Parker was unable to beat Iker Casillas, and Busquets saw the first yellow card of the game as an uneventful first half drew to a close.

There were no changes at half time as both sides returned with the fans hoping that they would make more of a game of it. There was certainly a marked improvement as Spain saw a goal correctly ruled out as Busquets stood about eight yards offside, and Steven Pienaar was booked by the referee who appeared to be losing patience with him. Shortly after this, Spain decided a double substitution was in order as Villa and Fernando Torres were withdrawn for David Silva and Dani Guiza. It was at this point that the game began to spark into life, as Khune was forced into two good saves, the first a Riera shot he smothered at the near post and then a Cazorla shot that was punched over the bar.

Joel Santana sensed that a change was needed and surprisingly took off Pienaar for Katlego Mphela, and then Elrio Van Heerden came on for Teko Modise. Taking off two of his best players seemed a gamble, but it paid off for the Brazilian Coach as Van Heerden played a through ball out on the left to Tshabalala who crossed into the middle for Mphela to hit a half-volley from eight yards out into the roof of the net. Fernando Llorente replaced Busquets as the South Africans defended bravely as the minutes ticked away. Albiol was booked for a dirty trip shortly before Tshabalala was taken off for Mhlongo, as the South African fans began to believe that the game was theirs.


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However, their hearts were broken in the 88th minute as a ball into the middle was swept into the corner beyond Khune’s reach by Guiza with a well-taken finish. The stadium went quiet, however, worse was to come a minute later, as Guiza received the ball on the right hand corner of the edge of the penalty area, and lobbed the keeper with a truly delightful goal. Many South African fans started pouring out of the stadium, but with seconds left Albert Riera jumped into Mhlongo roughly 35-yards out to concede a free-kick. It seemed too far out to be any possible threat, but that didn’t stop Mphela, as he sent an astonishing blast goalwards which curved beyond Casillas’ fingers – reminiscent of those free-kicks that has seen Cristiano Ronaldo gain plaudits. The crowd were ecstatic, and their joy carried it through into extra time.

The pace of the game dropped as the players became tired, however, the first half still saw a Capdevila cross hit the bar, before Mphela was denied a hat-trick when Casillas saved smartly with his legs. Casillas had to be alert again moments later, as he beat away a 20-yard Parker shot that was heading towards the far corner. The South Africa momentum would be stopped in its tracks when Xabi Alonso’s free-kick went straight in after Khune was unsighted as the ball swung in over the heads of Booth and Llorente. Having taken the lead again, Spain took no chances and played out the win, however the South African performance was enough to keep the vuvuzelas blaring at the end, and this time there were no fans leaving. If this South African side can mature a bit, and Santana and Benni McCarthy can put their feud aside, then next year could be very good for this gutsy South Africa side.


Final

June 28, 2009

USA 2 –3 Brazil

The Confederations Cup Final between Brazil and the USA was a repeat of their group game, on that occasion Brazil had come away with a 3-0 victory. However, that was before Bob Bradley’s men had hit the form that would see them handily beat both Egypt and Spain en route to the showpiece final. The final was dedicated to and preceded by a tribute to the late Cameroon midfielder, Marc-Vivien Foe, who passed away whilst playing in this tournament six years ago, and the fact that silence actually fell in the stadium in Johannesburg as his son spoke, was an indication of how admired he was on the African continent.

Brazil made no changes to the side that started the semi-final against South Africa meaning there was no place for the goal-scorer of that game, Dani Alves. Meanwhile the USA made a solitary change, with Benny Feilhaber replacing the suspended Michael Bradley. The game kicked off at a quick pace, with the USA appearing to be the side trying to push the game more. They got their reward just nine minutes in, when a Jonathan Spector cross got the faintest of touches from Clint Dempsey to drift past Julio Cesar. The goal appeared to give the USA confidence and provided Brazil with a reason to take the game to their opponents, producing some frenetic action, such as when Robinho was unfortunate to see his shot fumbled wide by Tim Howard. As the tempo pushed up, and Brazil kept swarming forward, the United States were increasingly putting many men behind the ball, and this resulted in fouls as Brazil tried to break through – like Carlos Bocanegra nearly rugby tackling Kaka. With Brazil’s frustration growing, the Sambas continued to push forward, leaving some rather large gaps at the back. And it was from a Brazilian corner that Landon Donovan was able to break to release Charlie Davies who sprinted down the left-wing with just two defenders chasing back, and lay it back into the path of Donovan, who masterfully flicked it past Ramires before firing past Julio Cesar in a truly exquisite display of counter-attacking football. Despite a late chance for Andre Santos at the other end, the half ended with the Americans firmly in control of proceedings.

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Whatever Dunga said at half-time clearly had an effect, as Brazil came out a different side in the second period and almost immediately Luis Fabiano scored with an excellent turn and finish to become top scorer for the tournament. Brazil was piling on the pressure and it was only due to the bravery of Oguchi Onyewu and the reflexes of Tim Howard that the Selecao were kept at bay. The Everton keeper was having a phenomenal game epitomised by his sharp save from a Lucio header, which rebounded to Gilberto Silva who could only scoop the ball well over. Controversy was to follow as a Kaka header on goal hit the crossbar and appeared to bounce over the line before Howard caught it and came away with the ball, insisting it had not crossed. The referee and the linesman appeared to accept this, however replays clearly showed that the ball had indeed gone beyond the line.

Just after this, Luis Fabiano broke through the offside trap onto goal, but his shot was smothered by Howard when he really should have scored. He would make amends shortly afterwards though, when Kaka raced away down the left, and played it low along the six yard box for Robinho to side foot onto the underside of the bar, and this time the ball bounced away from Howard and back out for the Brazilian number nine to head in and bring his side level. The United States looked too devastated to put up much of a threat from here on out, and despite being unfortunate with a penalty shout when it appeared that Maicon tripped Davies, the remaining chances all fell the way of the South Americans. First Robinho fired over from the edge of the area, then Kaka and Lucio respectively saw Howard deny them. Then with six minutes remaining, Elano swung over a high corner and Lucio escaped Dempsey to power a header off the post and beyond Howard’s despairing dive. The US had one remaining chance before the end, but Onyewu could only head over under pressure. The Selecao played keep ball to kill the game, before the final whistle went and as the Brazilians began to celebrate, the curtain came down on what has been a good taster of what we can hope for at next year’s World Cup, and a tournament that hopefully the Azzurri can learn some lessons from.

2009 FIFA Confederations Cup fixtures & results

Group A

South Africa 0-0 Iraq – June 14, 2009 – Johannesburg

Spain 5-0 New Zealand – June 14, 2009 – Rustenburg

Spain 1-0 Iraq – June 17, 2009 – Bloemfontein

South Africa 2-0 New Zealand – June 17, 2009 – Rustenburg

New Zealand 0-0 Iraq – June 20, 2009 – Johannesburg

South Africa 0-2 Spain – June 20, 2009 – Bloemfontein

Standings after three games – Spain 9, South Africa 4, Iraq 2, New Zealand 1

Group B

Brazil 4-3 Egypt – June 15, 2009 -Bloemfontein

Italy 3-1 USA – June 15, 2009 – Pretoria

USA 0-3 Brazil– June 18, 2009 – Pretoria

Italy 0-1 Egypt – June 18, 2009 – Johannesburg

Italy 0-3 Brazil – June 21, 2009 – Pretoria

Egypt 0-3 USA – June 21, 2009 – Rustenburg

Standings after three games – Brazil 9, USA 3, Italy 3, Egypt 3

Semi-finals

Spain 0-2 USA – June 24, 2009 – Bloemfontein

Brazil 1-0 South Africa – June 25, 2009 -Johannesburg

Third place play-off

Spain 3-2 South Africa – June 28, 2009 – Rustenburg

Final

USA 2-3 Brazil – June 28, 2009 – Johannesburg


Italy at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup

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