Few would have expected New Zealand to pull an upset over a Spain who entered the fray of the FIFA Confederations Cup boasting a 32 match unbeaten streak. But no one could have predicted that Liverpool’s Fernando Torres would score a hat trick within the first seventeen minutes of play.
Torres rapidly erases any doubt he’s the best striker on the planet these days.
Earlier in the day, I had been disappointed watching Iraq and host country South Africa start off the competition. Not only because it was a defensive, uninspired 0-0 draw. But because the fixture gave me nothing to write about. With no Benni McCartney in sight—it’s a long story, Steven Pienaar was the only name I recognized. And though he showed some influence after being introduced in the 85th, there was no time for the Everton man to help his country pierce the goal line.
I was hoping an EPL player would score or at least set up a great goal, so I could convert watching the matches into some relevant subject matter for EPL Talk.
When I saw Spain’s team sheet, sheet I was quickly filled with optimism. Torres, Fabregas, Alonso and Riera were all among the starters.
After Barcelona’s 2-0 decimation of Manchester United in the Champions League, I expected Spain’s backbone to be full of Camp Nou genius. But with only Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez in from Barca, it was clear Liverpool’s excellent season had made its impression on Vincente del Bosque. He fielded three Merseyside starters and added Alvaro Arbelo in the 53rd minutes. And with Arsenal’s Fabregas slotted in behind Torres and Villa, I just knew I’d get my EPL inspired goal.
Maybe del Bosque, a former Real Madrid manager, wasn’t as impressed by Barca’s Rome heroics as most of the rest of us.
Better for me.
Torres took no time. Picking up Fabregas’s pass on six minutes, he scooped the ball from twenty yards, curling it around the defender and keeper into the top corner of the net. Most strikers would have tried to lose their man first. Torres decided there was no need.
Then on 14 minutes, he was at it again. David Villa slotted the ball through traffic to Torres who side-footed it in.
Just as I was texting a friend to say, El Niño just scored two in the first 14! Capdevila launched the ball into the area and Torres put his head to it with force. Hat trick within seventeen minutes. After his third goal, Torres hesitated to put his arms up, as if thinking this is too easy, should I even celebrate?
And on top of the four goals from Premier League men, La Liga’s David Villa made his own brilliant and direct contributions as well. In addition to his sharp service to Torres, on 48 minutes, Villa was on hand to eat up a wayward New Zealand ball in the box and side-foot it into the net past the lunging Glen Moss.
New Zealand were demolished. It could have been worse but a couple dubious offsides calls kept Torres and Villa in check. Each had his chances to burst through into one-on-one territory where each man would certainly have found the composure and skill to beat Moss.
Spain’s unbeaten streak rises to 33. They are two away from tying Brazil’s record. No question they belong at number one in the world rankings.