Confederations Cup Debate: Spain Beat Brazil's Record - But Can They Beat Brazil?'s Ewan Macdonald reflects on La Furia Roja's record-breaking exploits - and how they may go one further...
Spain's 2-0 win over South Africa on Saturday night in the Confederations Cup was win number 15 on the trot for La Furia Roja, and one that puts them into the semi-finals in pole position.

That means that they'll meet the team finishing second in Group B. It's expected that this will be either Egypt or Italy, but there is the slimmest of slim possibilities that it'll be the USA*. And then there's always the chance that it's Brazil.

Spain may have a 100% record so far, but in fact their performances against both South Africa and Iraq were not world-class. Certainly they did enough to win - and deservedly so - but there remains a question mark over their ability to so comprehensively beat the bigger guns.

Yet 15 games without even dropping a point tells its own story, so all indications are that if Spain put out a strong side and play with energy, they will win against either of their likely opponents - including the world champions.

But there are a few things that must be watched out for after last night:
  • Giving away free-kicks: South Africa had no ability to capitalise on set pieces. Clumsy tackles on the edge of the box will be much easier pickings for the Italians or Egyptians.
  • Spurning through ball chances: Xavi put in a fine showing in midfield but a lack of communication between himself, Cesc, and the further-ups meant for fewer clear-cut chances than there could have been. One wonders why this is.
  • Pushing up at the wrong time: Carles Puyol is a worthy attacking full-back (yes, you read that right) but a more clinical full-back pair than the South Africans' could have punished this on the break. This probably isn't a huge concern against Italy, but Egypt will have taken note. Gerard Pique must watch out, too.
  • Definition in the finish: Yes, David Villa's placed goal was delightful, but both he and Fernando Torres spurned chances beforehand. That's most unlike them. It cannot go on.
But one still deems this side - the best in Europe and world record-holders - as good enough to beat either of the two probable semi-finalists.

Then, we presume, will come Brazil, who are likely to face South Africa. When Dunga meets Del Bosque, sparks will fly. Who will prevail?

If Spain can iron out the problems, they have a superb chance of all but indisputably earning the title of the world's greatest: the perfect dress rehearsal for 2010.

Ewan Macdonald,

*That 'slimmest of slim possibilities came to fruition as the United States overcame a three-point deficit and a goal difference of six to qualify for the semi-finals.