Spain’s Fernando Torres scored a hat-trick within 17 minutes of the kick-off as tournament favourites Spain routed New Zealand 5-0 at a half-full Rustenburg stadium.
The Liverpool striker broke the deadlock after six minutes, then added his second and third in the 14th and 17th minutes. Cesc Fabregas made it four seven minutes later before David Villa completed the rout early in the second half. Despite a committed performance from the Kiwis, it was all very straightforward for Spain, who have further reinforced their credentials to win the tournament in two weeks time.
“We did what we had to do, we started with a good rhythm and played good football and were leading 4-0 after 24 minutes. The second half was a question of saving energy for our next match,” said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.
But who joins Spain in the knockout phase is far from certain and blunt South Africa could rue their failure to put away the Asian champions in the opening match of the two-week tournament.
A near-capacity 48,000 crowd in Johannesburg saw the hosts create and waste several good scoring chances as ultra-cautious Iraq held out for a 0-0 draw in an event serving as a dress rehearsal for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
South Africa coach Joel Santana slammed negative Iraq, but when his team did break through they were guilty of finishing that bodes ill for their chances of making an impression as World Cup hosts.
Strikers Bernard Parker and Terror Fanteni lacked support from an unimaginative midfield and the former blocked a goal-bound Kagisho Dikgacoi header late in the second half. Substitute Katlego Mashego was another culprit, bursting through soon after his 78th-minute entrance only for goalkeeper Mohammed Kassis to advance bravely and push the ball away.
“Iraq never tried to play football,” complained Santana. “They tried to paralyse the game. We could easily have scored two or three goals. That is football sometimes.”
Former U.S. national team coach Bora Milutinovic countered:
“It was not easy playing the host nation. We did everything to try and win the game. I’m sorry if you thought it was boring.”