Spain fired a six-goal warning on Tuesday as the countdown to the June 14 kick-off of the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa continued.
Striker David Villa, reportedly on the wanted list of super spenders Real Madrid, performed a one-man sales pitch during the first half in Azerbaijan with a hat-trick that set up a 6-0 friendly triumph.
While pitting the country ranked first in the world against opponents who weigh in at number 140 might appear cruel, the sizzling Spaniards reeled off another victory without a hint of mercy.
Euro 2008 winners Spain inhabit what appears to be much the easier of the two Confederations Cup groups with hosts South Africa and the champions of Asia and Oceania, Iraq and New Zealand.
On the other side of the draw, World Cup holders Italy come face to face with defending Confederations Cup champions Brazil, and potentially dangerous ‘dark horses’ Egypt and the United States lurk in the background.
New Zealand, who have lost all six encounters in two previous Confederations Cup appearances with an embarrassing 2-17 goal tally, face Spain in the north-west mining town of Rustenburg on Sunday.
And when the score from Baku in the oil-rich east European state filters through to the ‘All Whites’ camp, it can only heighten fears that they are set to become the next victims of the Spanish armada.
Villa from cash-strapped Valencia demonstrated his predatory instincts by converting an Alvaro Albeloa cross, slamming home a shot from outside the penalty area, and converting a penalty when Cesc Fabregas was fouled.
Albert Riera, substitute Daniel Guiza and Liverpool goal machine Fernando Torres scored in the second half as Spain demonstrated why they are the most feared national football team in Europe.
It was much closer in Cape Town where Iraq scored first but had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Poland in their first competitive action under Serb Bora Milutinovic, who has coached five countries at the World Cup.
Mahdi Kareem half volleyed a cross from constant menace Hawar Mohammed into the Polish net on 54 minutes only for Brazil-born Roger Guerreiro to equalise with a shot that gave goalkeeper Noor Sabri no chance.
South Africa, who edged Poland 1-0 in Johannesburg last weekend, meet Iraq in the tournament opener at Ellis Park on Sunday with the winners expected to accompany Spain into the semi-finals.
Super Stadium in Atteridgeville outside Pretoria – host to numerous recent South Africa fixtures – will stage a friendly between Italy and New Zealand on Wednesday night.
This fixture presents a challenge for notoriously fickle South African football followers who must decide between attending the game in expected freezing winter conditions or watching it live on television.
The Confederations Cup began officially in 1999 and now serves as a four-yearly dress rehearsal for the World Cup, which South Africa hosts between June 11 and July 11 next year.
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