Kick-off: Sunday, June 28 2009, 15:00 (CET) Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, South Africa.
Spain stumbled at the semi-final stage against a gutsy American side, while Bafana were unlucky not to progress to the final after a last gasp free-kick handed Brazil the win, making this third place play-off more about pride than anything else.
Third Place Rematch
As football destiny would have it, Spain and South Africa meet once again in this third place play-off, after already coming up against each other in the group stages, where Spain humbled South Africa 2-0, despite a good performance from Bafana.
This game gives two opportunities to the participating teams, with South Africa getting a shot at revenge for their previous defeat and gaining more experience against a top ranked side, while Spain aim to finish off the tournament in the best manner for their fans and bring back some of their shattered confidence.
Some people argue that Bafana are up for one final challenge, while the Spanish, who came to the country for victory, are not too keen on finishing in third place and are already thinking about their holidays after a long season for most of the squad. There is no real pressure on either side to perform and win the encounter, as most observers still consider the third place play off to be a silly affair.
Changes Expected For Both Sides
With the pressure off and no titles at stake, both sides are set to field teams consisting of players that have had hardly any playing time in the tournament thus far, allowing them to have a run around in Rustenburg before the competition ends.
Psychologically, the South Africans are comforted by the fact that they performed well against top sides, but Spain are surely still upset by their shock loss in the competition to an impressive American team.
Spain will be hoping to react well, after that loss against the Americans in the semi-finals. The European champions saw their 15-match unbeaten record brought to an end by the United States in the Confederations Cup and star striker Fernando Torres insisted that they would bounce back in the third-place play-off on Sunday.
"What hurts most is going out in the semi-finals of a big competition, not the end of the run," the blond-haired striker told fifa.com.
"We knew that we couldn't possibly win every single game from now to the end of our careers and that the run would have to come to an end some day. We just didn't expect it to be here in South Africa, but that's the way it is. These things happen when you least expect them."
25 June: South Africa 0-1 Brazil
20 June: South Africa 0-2 Spain
17 June: South Africa 2-0 New Zealand
24 June: Spain 0-2 USA
20 June: South Africa 0-2 Spain
17 June: Spain 1-0 Iraq
Macbeth Sibaya is back in the squad following a suspension, while Bernard Parker has recovered from a knock he sustained in the previous Spain game. A few new players may be brought into the squad such as Rowan Fernandez and Lance Davids, as well as Elrio van Heerden.
Possible team: Fernandez, Booth, Gaxa, Mdledle, Davids, Mokoena, Sibaya, Pienaar, Mhlongo, Mashego, Parker.
Spain are expected to rest numerous stars in this encounter. So, players such as Alvaro Arbeloa, Gerard Pique and Albert Riera may take part, while others such as Villarreal captain Santi Cazorla are also likely to get a game.
Possible team: Reina, Ramos, Arbeloa, Pique, Capdevila, Riera, Fabregas, Alonso, Cazorla, Llorente, Guiza.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Matthew Booth has been a rock at the back for Bafana in this tournament, and he will need to stay sharp if he is to counter the attacking prowess of the Spanish. He is likely to move to Europe, after the competition, following his excellent displays, but, for now, he is focused on the Spanish match.
Fernando Torres is one of the world’s best strikers at the moment, with an ability to score with either foot or his head. He always causes problems for opposition defences and, if he is chosen to play a part in this encounter, he will undoubtedly be a danger for Bafana.
Spain want to end the competition with a win, but the home side are desperate to reward the support of the fans with a third place finish. This could be an interesting encounter, and Bafana may have what it takes to win in Rustenburg.
South Africa 1-0 Spain
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com
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