RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Fernando Torres scored a scintillating hat trick inside 17 minutes as world number one Spain breezed past the All Whites 5-0 in their FIFA Confederations Cup opener in Rustenburg on Monday morning (NZT).
The $50 million Liverpool striker – nicknamed El Niño – scored in the 6th, 14th and 17th minutes to rock the All Whites while Arsenal playmaker Cesc Fabregas grabbed a fourth in the 24th minute to cap a destructive opening from the tournament favourites.
A re-jigged All Whites – with Jeremy Christie brought on to help solidify the midfield – stemmed the red tide until half time, but an unfortunate mis-kick from Andy Boyens allowed David Villa in for Spain’s fifth three minutes after the break.
The win extends Spain’s unbeaten streak to 33, just two shy of the world record. With 30 of those 33, including the last 13, resulting in victories for La Roja, Spain are short priced favourites to equal the record by the end of group play and may face a chance to break it against current holders Brazil in the semi finals.
New Zealand must take at least a point off South Africa – who earlier played out an uninspiring goalless draw with Iraq – to keep their hopes of making the semi finals alive, and All Whites captain Tim Brown was adamant the side would have no problem picking themselves up for the showdown on Thursday morning (NZT).
“I still think we have something to contribute to this tournament and I still think there’s the opportunity to cause some surprises against South Africa and Iraq,” Brown said.
“We’re not going to forget everything [about the game] because firstly, we can learn from our mistakes and secondly we take some positives form the second half because there I think there were some.”
Coach Ricki Herbert was similarly upbeat about the side’s chances of getting New Zealand’s first point, or win, at a Confederations Cup.
“The players will take [the loss] on the chin. We’re not surprised by the Spanish performance. In one way it’s fantastic to get these opportunities but on the flipside it’s always going to be tough for us. But we’ve got too big games coming up and with the earlier draw between South Africa and Iraq this result doesn’t do too much damage to the group yet.”
“We’ve got a disappointed group of players but it’s a new day tomorrow and we’ll bounce back. We’ll need to turn the disappointment round quickly we’ll need to as we face a tough game against the hosts next up.”
After five minutes of Arsenal playmaker Cesc Fabregas took advantage of a stretched New Zealand defence to feed Torres on the edge of the box, who turned and bent a right foot shot past Glen Moss into top right corner.
Amidst a scintillating and devastating showcase of crisp passing and swift movement, Spain conjured up the goal of the game eight minutes later with a series of angled defence-twisting passes leading to Torres netting his second six yards out.
To complete his hat trick, Torres met Juan Capdevilla’s left wing cross with a bullet header, while Capdevilla also laid on Fabregas’s goal after Riera slipped a pass through the All Whites defence.
The All Whites finished the first half at the right end of the pitch with David Mulligan’s free kick keeping Iker Casillas honest while Chris Killen was off target with a header from the ensuing corner.
But Torres once again got in behind New Zealand on the flank and when his innocuous pass across goal eluded Boyens, Villa was on hand to tuck away Spain’s fifth and final goal.
New Zealand enjoyed more possession in the second spell and while Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz looked to be settling into the combination that Ricki Herbert had waited for in attack, there was little change out a Spanish outfit that was clinical in all areas.
FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 Match 2Group A
New Zealand 0 Spain 5 (Fernando TORRES 6, 14, 17; Cesc FABREGAS 24, David VILLA 48)Royal Bafokeng Stadium, RustenburgSunday 14 June