David Villa and Fernando Llorente scored the goals that gave Spain a 2-0 win over South Africa on Saturday for a world record 15th straight victory.
Valencia’s Villa broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute and substitute Llorente sealed the game with 18 minutes left to ensure the European champions finished top of their group at the Confederations Cup.
It means they play the runner-up in Group B, likely Italy or Egypt, in the semi-finals next Wednesday.
Despite losing, South Africa still make the last four and a potential clash with Brazil after Iraq failed to beat New Zealand in the other group game being played simultaneously.
The win meant Spain have now posted 15 consecutive victories, surpassing the old record of 14 held by Australia, Brazil and France.
They also matched the 35-match unbeaten streak held by Brazil between 1993 and 1996, with Spain’s run stretching back to November 2006 when they lost to Romania.
South Africa came into the game with expectations around the country high and the match was played in front of a sell-out and deafening crowd at the 40,000-capacity Free State Stadium.
With their semi-final berth assured before the game even started, coach Vicente del Bosque, who was now won all 13 matches since he took over, rested seven players.
He gave Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina a start and brought back Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, but retained the formidable Fernando Torres and Villa up front.
Liverpool midfielder Albert Reira nearly got them off to a flyer with a 40-yard freekick spectacularly turned around the post by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in the fourth minute.
Villa, a transfer target of Real Madrid, sent a header just over the bar a minute later as Spain made their intentions clear.
They were keeping possession well and creating opportunities with South Africa on the back foot. It was not until the 18th minute that the hosts had their first sniff of goal when Teko Modise blasted a freekick over the bar.
But the tempo soon slowed and the game was in need of a spark, which Torres nearly provided, cutting neatly inside and whipping off a shot that forced a save from the goalkeeper.
Spain began pressing and Matthew Booth was forced to clear off the line before South Africa wasted a glorious chance when Everton’s Steven Pienaar put Bernard Parker in the clear only for the striker to send his shot wildly wide.
It wasn’t just the home side wasting opportunities with an unmarked Villa blasting his shot high after a darting run by Torres as they went to the break all square.
The fireworks began six minutes into the second half when Fabregas was brought down by South African captain Aaron Mokoena and the referee rightly pointed to the spot.
Villa stepped up but Khune saved and then dealt with the rebound from Carlos Puyol.
The crowd went crazy but they were silenced barely a minute later when Villa beautifully controlled a lob by Reira and buried the ball in the net.
Llorente made sure of three points when he met a Xavi corner to slot the ball home from the six yard line and South Africa were fortunate not to concede more.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!