Spain wins third place: Another free kick sinks Bafana Bafana

Joel Santana’s squad needs to work on stopping those back breaking free kicks which seem to doom them at the last minute. This time it was Xabi Alonso’s extra time free kick in the 107th minute that sank South Africa.
Vicente Del Bosque went to his deep bench strength. Sergio Ramos whose poor clearance led to Dempsey’s goal was replaced by Raul Albiol. He also rested Puyol, Fabregas and Xavi. In their place Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Busquets and Santi Cazorla were introduced.
Yet, it was Bafana Bafana with another stirring performance who looked like pulling off an improbable upset through Katlego Mphela’s 73rd minute goal. The last 17 minutes saw a quickly swinging game. With three minutes left in regulation time, Spain got back into the game with two quickly struck goals by Euro 2008 super sub, Dani Guiza. Del Bosque’s decision to bring in Guiza and David Silva paid off in the second half as they added more energy than the relatively anonymous duo of Villa and Torres.
Guiza’s second goal in the 89th minute seemingly drew the curtain down on the match but Mphela’s fiercely struck 35 yard free kick left Casillas stranded as Bafana Bafana stormed back into the match. The match ended in a 2-2 draw through the neutralizing braces of Guiza and Mphela.
Extra time came and Mphela had a golden chance to match Fernando Torres with a hat trick of his own as he broke free in the 99th minute but Casillas made a great save with his feet. Then came Matthew Booth’s fatal foul on Joseba Llorente at the edge of the box in the 106th minute and up stepped Xabi Alonso and just like Dani Alves on Thursday, the Liverpool midfielder hit a curling free kick into the bottom of the net. Khune could do very little. The Spanish defense held on for the remainder of the match.
Bafana Bafana showed enough fighting spirit and talent to hold their heads up high. They now need to develop enough savvy to keep getting caught in situations which lead to such punishing consequences. Unfortunately for them, the Confederations Cup was their last big test before the World Cup. They did not qualify for the 2010 ACN and they have mostly friendlies for practice from hereon. So it will be hard to say how well prepared they will be for the big dance. But what we saw at the World Cup curtain raiser should check some of those gratuitous swipes made at the squad.
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