1. Spain could have had double figures…
…if they’d have wanted it. Fernando Torres struck a hat-trick inside 17 minutes and with Cesc Fabregas netting the fourth goal inside 25 minutes, Spain were literally cutting New Zealand open at will. Indeed it was getting rather embarrassing for the ‘All Whites’ (what’s wrong with just saying ‘New Zealand’?) until the champions of Euro 2008 eased their foot off the pedal and reduced the tempo, content to merely knock the ball about and very much reducing the game to a training exercise.
Some will claim that the slowing in scoring was the result of New Zealand solidifying their defence but that just wasn’t the case. Had Spain had the motivation to, they would have embarrassed the kiwis with relative ease. With NZ just a two leg qualifier against the 5th place Asian side away from the World Cup next year, this match simply served to demonstrate what we all knew – that the gap between Europe and Oceania is enormous, and NZ have a long way to go before establishing themselves as a competitive international football side.
2. Fernando Torres is simply class.
Say what you like about the defending (and it was really poor), you can’t argue with Torres’ finishing. The first was a beautiful side-footed curling effort from the edge of the box that gave the ‘keeper absolutely no chance. Sure, he had all the time in the world to bury it, but such precision is not something that is easily learned. His second, a bullet header from about 10 yards further proved his natural ability to find the back of the net.
David Villa, Torres’ strike partner, is currently being linked with a move to Real Madrid, Barcelona or Chelsea, and is arguably rated as highly as Torres. However, while certainly a very good player, he’s no match for El Nino on this showing, fluffing a couple of gilt edged chances in the second half before eventually capitalising on a mistake to add the fifth goal. It’s no wonder Sir Alex Ferguson is rumoured to be interested in luring Torres from Liverpool, because he is quite simply the deadliest striker in the world at present.
3. A difference in class…
… was of course immediately evident between the two sides. However, I couldn’t keep back a wry smile when the commentator informed me that 20 of Spain’s 23 man squad are taken from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Valencia and Villareal – making each of those clubs some of those with the most players at the Confederations Cup, a stat that will doubtless cause a little pride for those clubs.
However, I knew as he said it that the most represented club side at the Confederations Cup is Wellington Phoenix, with seven of their players representing New Zealand at the tournament. Undoubtedly it’s a nice bit of trivia and doubtless will bring some much needed publicity to Wellington. However, remembering some quotes from the last A-League season where a few players suggested that the standard was ‘approaching the Premier League’, I hope those ever optimistic souls were watching as the seven Phoenix players were duly outclassed by their European counterparts.
4. Italy will be feeling rather humbled.
Sure, Italy didn’t put out a strong side in their friendly against New Zealand, but having seen the ease with which Spain demolished the Kiwis, Lippi will probably be feeling a tad humbled. Spain didn’t look as if they’d concede a goal if they played for 90 hours never mind 90 minutes, while the other day Italy – the famous, impervious Italy – leaked three goals to the Oceania champions.
What’s more, even when Lippi brought on some of his ‘bigger’ players (because they started the game with more than enough talent to cruise past NZ) they didn’t look anywhere near as comfortable as Spain did today. Yep, I’m willing to grant that maybe NZ played a little better against Italy, but I have to say that I confidently expect the Champions of Europe to prove superior to the Champions of the World at this Confederations Cup tournament.
5. All that without Iniesta…
Spain looked good. They will of course be tested far, far more when it comes to the World Cup next year, but you have to say that it’s going to be difficult to look past them when it comes to pre-tournament predictions. They’re not far off bettering the Brazilain record for unbeaten international fixtures, and I can’t see that streak coming to an end before they return to South Africa next year.
What’s more, the team last night will hopefully welcome back Andres Iniesta from injury for the tournament in 2010, and though Xavi (who also didn’t feature against NZ) and Cesc Fabregas are superb players in their own right, I have to say that Iniesta is probably the pick of them all, and the best creative midfielder in the world at the moment. It’s a mouth watering prospect indeed, and I’ll certainly be tuning into all their games in this tournament, as their football is – like Barcelona’s – a joy to behold.