Confederations Cup action round-up – Spain through but Azzurri struggle

Spain secured a place in the final four after seeing off a tough challenge from Iraq with relative ease in the second round of group games, while the free-scoring Brazilians recorded their second win from two matches in South Africa with a 3-0 win over the United States. However, the round will ultimately be remembered for Italy’s dire performance and defeat at the hands of Egypt.

Group B

June 18, 2009

Italy 0-1 Egypt

Egypt started without an obvious left winger in a defensive 5-4-1 and set out from the start to keep Italian chances to a minimum. Italy themselves made a number of changes most notably with Giuseppe Rossi making his first start of the tournament, while Fabio Quagliarella replaced Mauro Camoranesi on the right of the front three and captain Fabio Cannavaro returned in defence.

Italy controlled the opening proceedings without creating any clear-cut opportunities. Quagliarella started well, looking to impress on his tournament debut and both he and Vincenzo Iaquinta had efforts for the world champions in the opening 25 minutes. However, Rossi was the first to trouble Essam El Hadary in the Egypt goal as his left-footed shot was tipped over. Egypt’s counter-attacking philosophy continued to break down as they progressed up the pitch although Hosni Abd Rabbou did produce one effort to worry Gianluigi Buffon. In fact, it was this effort that lead to the breakthrough. The resulting corner was taken by Mohamed Aboutrika and some appalling marking left Mohamed Homos free to guide his header into the Italian net via the far post.

Homos19062009

The second period opened with Italy once again in control as desperation and frustration slowly increased over half. Iaquinta spurned the first opportunity, failing to get an effort away when faced by only El Hadary in the box. In essence, the crowd was watching a perfectly played out Egyptian tactic. They had patiently waited for chances to flood forward but rarely committed more than necessary and never left themselves open. Into the final 20 minutes, Italy was still creating chances but showed little predatory instinct in front of goal. Iaquinta and Riccardo Montolivo were the main culprits as El Hadary was thrice forced to keep Egypt ahead. The bar also came to Egypt’s rescue in the last five minutes although the Azzurri will be disappointed that it proved their only decent effort in the final 10 minutes, Iaquinta’s misplaced cross so nearly fooling El Hadary only to find the woodwork. For the neutral supporters this defeat for la Nazionale brings excitement to the final group games in Group B although Lippi’s team would have certainly preferred to go through tonight. They now face a Brazil side high on confidence, while Egypt, having kept their hopes alive, will fancy their chances against the already eliminated Americans on Sunday.


USA 0-3 Brazil

Dunga made his feelings on the narrow victory over Egypt clear, making three substitutions at the back ahead of the game with the United States. Maicon and Andre Santos came in at full-back while Juan was replaced by Miranda who earned his second cap in the Group B clash. DaMarcus Beasley entered the USA starting line up in place of the suspended Ricardo Clark with Coach Bob Bradley retaining their 4-5-1 formation in what has been a difficult opening to the tournament for them.

An uneventful start was brought to life in the seventh minute when Maicon’s inch-perfect delivery allowed Felipe Melo to head past USA goalkeeper Tim Howard. Brazil, with Egypt’s comeback fresh in their memory took extra care in maintaining control of proceedings and it was not long before they doubled their lead. A poorly worked corner was the USA’s downfall as Brazil set off on a counter attack. Brazil worked the ball to Ramires who timed his perfectly weighted pass for Robinho to stroke over the advancing Howard. Robinho celebrated with an impromptu interview on the sidelines for one lucky journalist before Kaka, Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva all could, and maybe should, have put Brazil further ahead. Nevertheless, Dunga’s men entered the break with a two-goal advantage for the second game in a row.

Robinho Maicon19062009

Sacha Kljestan was sent off for America as the game approached the hour mark. The midfielder was late with his tackle but a red card seemed a little harsh with little apparent malice in the challenge. Brazil took little time in making their man advantage count. More good work from Maicon, a constant threat to America’s defence, and slick passing from Kaka allowed the Inter right-back through on Howard with options in the middle. However, ignoring his teammates in the middle, Maicon, playing in place of Daniel Alves, lifted the ball in to the roof of the net to increase the lead to 3-0.

The USA actually produced their best opportunity with 10 men as Benny Feilhaber struck the ball against the Brazilian crossbar before fellow substitute Conor Casey also struck the bar as the Americans attacked with the freedom of a beaten team. They must now concentrate on the Gold Cup while Brazil can go into the game with Italy in the knowledge they are virtually assured a place in the semi-final.


Group A

June 17, 2009

Spain 1-0 Iraq

Spain’s victory against New Zealand gave Vincente Del Bosque the opportunity to change a number of players in his starting line up but still came out with a great deal of quality. Carlos Marchena and Gerard Pique started in defence while Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla were called into Spain’s impressive midfield. Iraq also made four changes but understandably given the opposition, stuck to their defensive tactics employing a defensive midfielder and often keeping 10 (and sometimes 11) men behind the ball to ensure Spain would not get an easy path in to the semi-final.

The game started as expected with the Spanish midfield in control, although they were unable to break down Iraq’s disciplined 4-5-1. On the 15-minute mark, Gerard Pique headed wide from a corner shortly before Xavi and Fernando Torres combined well to create a half chance but the Liverpool striker was unable to get his shot away. It was 10 minutes before Spain created another chance, this time the best of the game. A fine ball from Cazorla found David Villa free in the box but his volley only found the side netting when he should perhaps have done better. It was a half of missed opportunities for the Spanish but there was no hint of desperation as the European champions looked for their (record-equaling) 14th straight win.

Villa19062009

And Spanish patience paid off when Villa scored in the 56th minute, converting Capdevilla’s cross with a glancing header past Mohammed Kassid in the Iraq goal. Villa also missed two opportunities prior to his goal to give Spain the lead. Finding more space as the game progressed, Xabi Alonso drove a shot in to the arms of Kassid before a long distance effort that just cleared the Iraq crossbar. As the match approached the final 10 minutes, Iraq looked increasingly fatigued while the Spanish, with the fresh faces brought in to the line-up, appeared spritely and composed, ensuring the result in the process. Spain kept the ball for long periods and late chances fell only to the Europeans instead of Iraq who failed to test Iker Casillas significantly. Most notably Mata and Sergio Ramos came close to getting Spain’s second but in the end a single goal and comfortable performance was enough to ensure another victory and a place in the semi-final as Spain’s impressive unbeaten run continued.


South Africa 2-0 New Zealand

New Zealand made just one change to the side that lost 5-0 to Spain on Monday. Jeremy Christie came into the side to replace Jeremy Brockie, just as he had done in the first half of the match against Spain and took up a position on the right of midfield. Meanwhile, Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar returned to the South African starting line-up in an otherwise unchanged first XI. Joel Santana stuck with Bernard Parker up front in the hope the striker could put the first game behind him and produce something special against the Kiwis.

Bafana Bafana started the better side and forced Kiwi goalkeeper Glen Moss into a number of saves before the breakthrough eventually arrived. Good work from Tsepo Masilela, pushing on from left-back and around Dave Mulligan’s challenge meant he had plenty of time to compose himself before picking out Bernard Parker who thrashed the ball past Moss, to repay his manager’s faith in him and put his team into a worthy lead. Despite efforts on goal from Chris Killen and Tim Brown, it proved another disappointing half for Kiwi fans as they once again trailed at the interval.

BernardParker19062009

Masilela once again turned provider after his surge forward down the left allowed him to find Parker, who lost his marker and provided an improvised finished to light up the second period. It was a quality piece of football that typified South African play. They had finally found a clinical edge to the flamboyant football shown against Iraq. South Africa kept pushing forward and after Katlego Mashego replaced Thembinkosi Fanteni, Santana’s team created further chances to widen their lead only to see Parker, Masilela and Teko Modise miss the target. Mashego staked his claim for a start against Spain with two efforts in the last ten minutes as South Africa virtually assured their place in the semis.

Mathematically, it is still possible for Iraq to proceed in the tournament so the final Group A matches should prove nervy encounters. South Africa will need a point to secure their progression against a Spain side looking for their record-breaking 15th straight international win while Iraq will have to hope for a Spain victory and a win themselves over a Kiwi side desperate to leave the Confederations Cup with some points.

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 vs. Iraq – June 20, 2009 – Johannesburg

South Africa vs. Spain – June 20, 2009 – Bloemfontein

Standings after two games – Spain 6, South Africa 4, Iraq 1, New Zealand 0

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 vs. Brazil – June 21, 2009 – Pretoria

Egypt vs. USA – June 21, 2009 – Rustenburg

Standings after two games – Brazil 6, Italy 3, Egypt 3, USA 0

Semi-finals

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

Final

Semi-final 1 winner vs. Semi-final 2 winner – June 28, 2009 – Johannesburg


Italy at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup

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