Kick Off: Wednesday 17 June 2009. 16.00 CET. Free State Stadium, Manguang/Bloemfontein
Spain got their Confederations Cup campaign off to a flying start by crushing New Zealand on Sunday and they can qualify from Group A should they beat Iraq. The Middle-Eastern side could only draw against hosts South Africa in their opener and will be looking to test the European champions in Bloemfontein…
Super Spanish Start
Whilst Iraq got the Confederations Cup off to a rather anti-climactic start with their draw against South Africa, Spain took just six minutes to score the first goal of the tournament against New Zealand. After Fernando Torres had opened the scoring he didn’t stop either, and within 18 minutes he had his hat-trick and Spain had their first three points on the board.
Goals from Cesc Fabregas and David Villa simply highlighted the one-sided nature of the game and it is fair to say that 5-0 was a fair reflection of the way the match panned out. Vicente Del Bosque’s side dominated possession and controlled the ball, and even though New Zealand are far from the strongest side in the tournament, it was an impressive start by Spain.
They will now be looking to add another three points against Iraq to qualify from the group and Del Bosque acknowledged after the victory over the All Whites that this match will be tougher. Even so, if La Furia Roja play half as well as they did in Rustenburg, it is hard to see anything but a convincing victory on Wednesday evening.
Indeed, even though Iraq managed to take a point from South Africa in their opening game they were fortunate to do so given their lack of chances in front of goal, and they should have been punished near the end but Bernard Parker blocked his team-mate’s goal-bound effort on the line. Had the hosts scored it would have been hard to argue with the result and Iraq’s defensive play did little to bring excitement to the competition.
Nevertheless, they grabbed a valuable point and will know that should they beat New Zealand in the final game they could qualify from the group, which would certainly be a success. Before the All Whites though they must take on Spain - and truth be told, coach Bora Milutinovic will probably be pleased if they manage to keep the scoreline respectable at the final whistle.
That is not to say that Iraq do not have the potential to hurt the European champions because they should be more dangerous than New Zealand, but if they defend as they did against South Africa, they will surely be punished this time. The Lions of Mesopotamia will have to shut down Spain better than the All Whites did on Sunday and if they are to get anything from the match they will have to be at their best and hope their opponents and well below theirs.
June 14 New Zealand 0-5 Spain (Confederations Cup)
June 9 Azerbaijan 0-6 Spain (Friendly)
April 1 Turkey 1-2 Spain (World Cup Qualifier)
March 28 Spain 1-0 Turkey (World Cup Qualifier)
February 11 Spain 2-0 England (Friendly)
June 14 South Africa 0-0 Iraq (Confederations Cup)
June 9 Iraq 1-1 Poland (Friendly)
April 31 Qatar 1-0 Iraq (Friendly)
March 28 South Korea 2-1 Iraq (Friendly)
March 22 Saudi Arabia 0-0 Iraq(Friendly)
After demolishing New Zealand in the opening game it seems unlikely that Vicente Del Bosque will change the side too much and will probably stick with his strongest eleven.
The one alteration he could make might be in midfield, where David Silva could be fighting for a place ahead of Albert Riera.
Probable Line-Up (4-4-2): Casillas – Ramos, Albiol, Puyol, Capdevila – Fabregas, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Riera– Torres, Villa
It seems unlikely that Iraq will change too much heading into this game but they may well decide to pack the midfield and play with just one up front to help shut down some space.
Should the coach alter things then Emad Mohammed could be the one replaced, with the experienced Hawar Mohammeed coming in.
Probable Line-Up (4-5-1): Kassid – Kareem, Abbas, Majeed, Shaker – Jassim, Akram, Sadir, Karim, Hawar- Mahmoud
PLAYER TO WATCH
With Iraq defending in numbers, Spain will have to take their chances when they come and as Fernando Torres proved against New Zealand, there are few better in the world up front than him. The Liverpool striker grabbed three against the All Whites and will be looking to add to his tally on Wednesday evening.
Whilst the defenders will be important if Iraq are to take anything from this match, goalkeeper Mohammed Kassid could be the key for the underdogs. The youngster is likely to have a busy evening against the likes of Torres and David Villa and it will be crucial that he doesn’t concede early.
Spain brushed New Zealand aside with ease on Sunday and whilst Iraq could be slightly stronger in defence, the result is still likely to be the same; a convincing win for the European champions.
Spain 3-0 Iraq
James Walker-Roberts, Goal.com