JOHANNESBURG - Hosts South Africa, who started the Confederations Cup so slowly even own their fans almost fell asleep with boredom, could set the vuvuzelas blaring even louder on Saturday. The distinctive air horns blown by South African football fans will be out in force when the national team face European champions Spain in their final Group A match in Bloemfontein. South Africa are second in the group with four points, two behind Spain, who have already qualified, and three ahead of Iraq. New Zealand, with no points, are already eliminated. If Spain beat South Africa and Iraq beat New Zealand, South Africa and Iraq will both finish on four points and the one with the better goal difference will advance. South Africa need a draw to guarantee progress although if Iraq fail to beat New Zealand in Johannesburg in the other group game being played at the same time, a defeat for the hosts would still mean they qualify. However with South Africa having a goal difference of plus-2 and Iraq on minus-1, it is feasible that both could end with identical records after their 0-0 draw in the opening match last Sunday. If that was the case, FIFA would toss a coin to decide who goes through. Spain have no such worries but they are also chasing some targets of their own. They can set a FIFA recognised world record run of 15 consecutive international victories, eclipsing the mark of 14 they reached on Wednesday when they beat Iraq 1-0 and which they currently share with Brazil, Australia and France. If they avoid defeat, as expected, they will also equal Brazil's world record run of 35 unbeaten matches which the South Americans set between 1993 and 1996, winning the 1994 World Cup final along the way. Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque, who took over as coach from Luis Aragones after Spain won the European championship last year, has now won all 12 matches while he has been in charge. "Being qualified means I can make some changes, but winning is still the most important thing." The match, in Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium, is a guaranteed sellout with fans hoping to see their team advance to the last four. Iraq coach Bora Milutinovich, on a short-term contract with the national team, should chalk up a win over New Zealand, with both teams looking to score their first goals in the tournament.
19 June 2009
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