Fernando Torres bagged a first-half hat-trick as European champions Spain crushed New Zealand 5-0 to open their Confederations Cup campaign in emphatic style on Sunday.
The Group A victory, their 13th consecutive win, extended their unbeaten run to 33 games as they look to overtake Brazil’s world record 35 matches without defeat between 1993 and 1996.
Yet despite Spain being the world’s number one ranked team and packed with star names, the Royal Bafokeng Stadium here was half-empty, something that will worry FIFA with the World Cup in South Africa less than a year away.
The match was always going to be a David versus Goliath battle and it was all Spain, with Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Valencia’s David Villa also getting on the scoresheet.
They opened their account after six minutes when Fabregas slotted the ball to Torres on the edge of the box and he coolly curled his shot into the top right-hand corner.
It was 2-0 eight minutes later after Villa cut the ball back for Torres, who side-footed it past flailing goalkeeper Glen Moss.
The Liverpool striker collected his hat-trick inside 17 minutes as the one-sided game threatened to become an embarrassing rout.
Villarreal’s Joan Capdevila crossed from the left and Torres out-jumped the defence to powerfully head the ball home for his 22nd international goal.
It was the second hat-trick for his country, the other coming against San Marino in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.
New Zealand’s confidence was shattered as their defence, missing injured Blackburn star Ryan Nelsen, was run ragged, erasing any faint hopes they had after scoring three goals against Italy in a 4-3 warm-up match defeat last week.
With Spain keeping possession and pressing forward at every opportunity, Fabregas got their fourth on 24 minutes with a simple tap-in after Capdevila squared the ball into his path.
The only other time the two teams have met was at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1997 when Spain won 13-0 and All Whites coach Ricki Herbert looked a worried man in the dugout with another double figure demolition appearing possible.
He took off striker Jeremy Brockie, replacing him with Jeremy Christie to shore up the defence, and the tactic temporarily worked, with the score remaining the same until the half-time whistle.
But it didn’t stay that way for long with Villa scoring the fifth just three minutes after the restart when a comical miskick from defender Andy Boyens gifted the Valencia striker a clear sight of goal that he ruthlessly exploited.
It was his 29th international strike, putting him alongside Hierro and behind only Raul as Spain’s leading scorer of all time.
Torres was substituted with 20 minutes left as Spain took their foot off the gas, conscious that they have another game on Tuesday.
With hosts South Africa drawing 0-0 with Iraq, Spain, who have not lost since November 2006, top Group A with three points.
They next meet Iraq in Bloemfontein while New Zealand will look to salvage some pride against South Africa on the same day in Rustenburg.
The top two from the group qualify for the semi-finals.
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