Spain played Confederations Cup hosts South Africa in the third place final of the tournament, held at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium of Rustenburg. The European champions played in a 4-4-2 formation with David Villa and Fernando Torres up front, while the World Cup hosts played with a 4-5-1 line-up with Bernard Parker in attack.
There was a surprisingly low attendance for this match, especially considering the host nation was involved, but the weather conditions were perfect.
The first chance came to Spain in the 4th minute, when David Villa made some nice dribbles near the edge of the area and fired a shot that was well saved by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.
Overall South Africa unsurprisingly looked more motivated than a disappointed Spanish side, making it an evenly balanced match. In the 13th minute, Matthew Booth was found alone in the area on a free kick for the home side, but he could not get his header on target.
In the 19th minute, Spain made themselves dangerous on a counterattack, Villa again making a good run towards the goal, but defender Tsepo Masilela made a great sliding tackle to clear the danger.
Two minutes later, Torres had his first chance, as he dribbled past a defender and went for a shot from inside the area, which was well blocked by a defender just when he was about to shoot.
On the half hour mark, Iker Casillas was called upon to make his first save of the match, as he dove to keep out a shot from Siphiwe Tshabalala on a move following a corner kick.
In the 35th minute, Spain had a decent chance as Albert Riera was found making a run into the area, but he was unsure whether to cross the ball or shoot, and ended up wasting a good chance by putting it wide, with Torres unmarked in front of the goal.
No changes were made during half time. The first chance of the second half was for the Europeans in the 47th minute, as Villa fired a hard shot from outside the area following a deflected free kick, and the goalkeeper parried it away, but only as far as Sergio Busquets who slotted it home. However, the move had already been stopped for an offside position.
Spain gradually started to look more convincing, and in the 63rd minute Khune came with a great save on a shot from inside the area by Riera after a nice one-two with substitute Daniel Guiza.
A minute later, midfielder Santi Cazorla fired a powerful shot on goal that was punched away by Kuhne.
However, it was South Africa who took a surprise lead after they managed to weather the Spanish storm. In the 72nd minute, Tshabalala crossed the ball in from the left after a good move, and substitute Katlego Mphela smashed the ball home from close range after a somewhat clumsy control.
Spain reacted angrily and started to pour forward in search of an equaliser. In the 83rd minute, Riera fired a dangerous cross-shot from distance that was nearly deflected it by Guiza, but he just couldn’t get to it.
In the 87th minute, Vicente Del Bosque’s team found a deserved equaliser as David Silva found Guiza inside the area, and the striker fired a low shot from inside the area that left Kuhne without a chance.
Incredibly, a minute later Guiza brought Spain in front with a strange goal, as what seemed to be a cross by the Fenerbahce player ended up on the post and flew in to make it 2-1 Spain.
However, the drama wasn’t over yet, as in the very last minute of stoppage time South Africa were awarded a free kick, which was converted with a superb shot by Mphela, who bagged his brace.
And so the teams went to extra time after a thrilling last five minutes of the match.
In the second minute of extra time, Riera made a good run into the area, and found Fernando Llorente, but he could not find space for a shot as he was surrounded by South African defenders.
In the 96th minute, Joan Capdevila sent in a cross that almost turned into another freak goal like Guiza’s, as it hit the upper side of the crossbar on its way out.
Two minutes later, Mphela nearly had his hat-trick as he was found alone in front of Casillas by Elrio Van Heerden, but the Spanish keeper managed to keep it out with his foot.
Casillas was called into action again in the 102nd minute, when Benson Mhlongo set up Parker for a dangerous shot that was parried around the post by the Spanish keeper.
In the last minute of the first half of extra time, there was some controversy as a cross towards Silva seemed to be cleared by Mhlongo’s hand, which led Spain to claim a penalty, but the referee ignored the incident. Replays showed a penalty would have been right.
Spain took the lead again in the 106th minute, the first of the second half of extra time, thanks to Xabi Alonso, who managed to beat Khune with a free kick from outside the area that was probably intended to find a team mate but went in without getting touched by anyone.
The home side looked down and out after this third goal, and failed to create any more chances. As time wore on, it became increasingly unlikely they would be able to come back again.
Ultimately then, Spain managed to end the tournament well after their semi-final disappointment, by beating hosts South Africa 3-2 after extra time and finish third in the Confederations Cup.
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Danilo Pochini, Goal.com
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