Brazil, football the winners in Africa


29 June 2009

If the quality of the football that has been on display in South Africa over the past two weeks is anything to go by, the world is in for an absolute feast when the World Cup arrives in Africa for the first time in 2010.

The 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup has seen goals galore, upsets aplenty, and some stunning reversals – and the final day did not disappoint, producing 10 goals and two comebacks, as Brazil and Spain turned the tables on the USA and South Africa respectively.

An action-packed tournament got the final it deserved at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday, as Brazil and the USA served up a five-goal thriller that ended in the South Americans’ favour, courtesy of captain Lucio’s 84th-minute header.

When the final whistle blew, Brazil had won the tournament for the third time since its inception in 1992, becoming the first team to defend the title – they won it in Germany in 2005 – while Dunga had become the first person to win the tournament as both player and coach.

Yet it was the North American underdogs who had looked the most likely to take the honours at half-time, having raced into a two-goal lead thanks to Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.

However, the five-time World Cup winners grabbed a vital lifeline just moments into the second period through Luis Fabiano, who subsequently took his tally to five goals in five games with the 74th-minute equaliser that set up his skipper’s grandstand finish.

In the play-off for third place, any fans who left Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng Stadium early would have kicked themselves after a match which failed to ignite until South Africa stung Spain into action through Katlego Mphela’s 73rd-minute opener.

With Bafana Bafana all but ready to occupy the final place on the podium, two goals in a minute from Spain’s Daniel Guiza spun the scoreline on its head. First, the Fenerbahce forward levelled the score at 1-1 with a crisp right-footed finish.

Then, moments later, Guiza collected the ball just inside the box in the right-hand channel before sending a inch-perfect lob spinning high beyond the reach of the Bafana Bafana keeper Itumeleng Khune and in off the inside of the far post.

Though tempted to give full credit to the former Mallorca poacher for an opportunistic strike, could Guiza’s pinpoint chip really have been a mis-hit cross?

Bafana, and Mphela, weren’t finished, however. Handed a lifeline deep into injury time after a foul by Liverpool winger Albert Riera, Mphela stepped up to fire home a guided-missile of a free-kick from fully 35 yards which even a keeper of the calibre of Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas could do nothing about.

Clear chances came and went for South Africa in the first period of extra time before Xabi Alonso’s 107th-minute free kick eluded everybody to find the back of the net and clinch third spot for Spain at South Africa 2009.