Spain striker Fernando Torres has warned South Africa to expect a backlash when they clash in the Confederations Cup third place play-off on Sunday.
“We must go back to square one and start putting some more wins together,” Torres said in the aftermath of a stunning semi-final loss to the United States on Wednesday.
European champions Spain cruised into the semi-finals with three consecutive group-stage victories and no-one expected ‘La Furia Roja’ to come unstuck in the central city of Bloemfontein.
But Liverpool star Torres and company saw a world record-equalling 35-match unbeaten run come to an abrupt halt as the USA scored in each half while keeping a clean sheet on a freezing night.
“I would love us to go another 35 matches without losing. That would be great, especially with a World Cup in the middle,” said the three-goal joint-leading Confederations Cup scorer.
“The most important thing now is that we keep showing the same down-to-earth approach as we did when we went all that time unbeaten. The really big challenges are only just beginning.”
Torres accepts that a South African team beaten 2-0 by Spain last weekend will be hopeful of a reversal in fortunes at the Rustenburg Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace after putting on a brave show in the 1-0 semi-final loss to Brazil.
“We know that it is going to get harder to win. Our opponents are going to know more about us and will want to beat us because defeating Spain now is like it was before to beat Brazil or Argentina,” Torres added.
Torres will also be keen to get back on the goal trail having failed to hit the target against Iraq, South Africa or the United States after a 12-minute hat-trick demolished New Zealand.
His likely minder on Sunday afternoon is Matthew Booth, the tallest footballer at the 2010 World Cup dress rehearsal and a favourite of the home crowd, who chant his name in admiration each time he touches the ball.
Booth has shortcomings, particularly in the pace department, but sticks to opponents like glue as Brazilian Luis Fabiano will testify after an unrewarding semi-final outing.
“We want revenge over Spain,” Booth told reporters. “We have grown as a team on and off the field during this tournament and much of the credit must go to coach Joel Santana.”
Czech Republic, United States, Australia, Turkey and Germany won the previous third-place play-offs, with easily the most memorable match being the Germans’ 4-3 extra-time triumph over Mexico four years ago.
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