Confederations Cup Spain-South Africa: Third Place Contest No Contest

Eric BradleyCorrespondent IJune 26, 2009

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 20:  David Villa and Fernando Torres of Spain challenge Siboniso Gaxa and Benson Mhlongo of South Africa for a high ball as Matthew Booth of South Africa (14) and Gerard Pique of Spain (3) look on during the FIFA Confederations Cup match between Spain and South Africa at the Free State Stadium on June 20, 2009 in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Recently I have been accused of being disrespectful in my comments regarding the South African team. I don't really agree with that view, because in my opinion I have always given them praise where it is due.

Unfortunately, I am undoubtedly about to make a whole lot of people angry all over again. I'd really rather not, but I don't have a choice.

Well, I suppose I could always not write anything at all, but that would be giving in to pressure, and I'm too stubborn to let myself be intimidated by a misguided minority.

In my articles I always try to entertain my readers, but I draw the line at merely saying what people want to hear. Whatever else may be said (and believe me, a lot has been said) about my work, it is always honest and I don't pull any punches.

So, sadly, I must once again predict that South Africa will be beaten. I don't say this with any measure of scorn. They played a good, solid game against Brazil, but unfortunately it just was not good enough to get them over the line. 

Nonetheless, it was a meritorious effort and fully deserving of the highest praise.

Here, though, they are taking on Spain.

It would be easy to jump on the bandwagon with all the optimists and declare that South Africa has a strong chance to win here because Spain is coming into the match off a loss to the US and South Africa played their best game of the tournament last night.

But every hard statistic points solidly in the other direction.

spacer Spain South Africa
FIFA Rank172
2009 Conf Cup WLD3-0-11-1-2
2009 Conf Cup GF82
2009 Conf Cup GA23
Shots Attempted5845
Accuracy (SA/GF)13.8%4.4%
Scoring Players41
Best Result5-0 v NZ2-0 v NZ
Worst Result0-2 v USA0-2 v Spain
Overall Record
WC Matches P/W49/226/1
CC Matches P/W4/36/1
EC or ANC P/W30/13 (2)28/13 (1)
1st Class Players*234
* "First class players" means those who play for a major European club
during the normal football season (eg. Premier League in England,
Scotland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, or Portugal).

Now, of course, every game is unique and many factors can affect the result, including penalties and red cards, etc. Even simple luck can make a difference.

But when it comes to predicting the outcome of a match, we can't take any of those factors into account. The only guide we can rely on is past history and any special piece of news that comes our way, such as information that a player has been injured and will not make an appearance.

And so, based on past history, current form, and what is known about the players who are expected to take the field, there can only be one possible prediction.

Spain should win this easily, at least if they care at all about claiming third place.

Strange things have indeed happened in third place games in past Confederations Cups, notably Australia defeating Brazil (2001) and Turkey beating Colombia in 2003.

Considering that Spain will have felt the hurt of their first loss since Nov. 2006, I expect they will be out to salvage their pride and will put in a genuine effort. If this is the case, then they should be not be any more troubled by their opponent than they were last time these two teams met.


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