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A history of the FIFA Confederations Cup: 2009’s most memorable matches

A rule change in 2005 meant that football fans had to wait 4 years to see another Confederations Cup, although it was well worth the wait. South Africa hosted the tournament, in what was a prelude to the World Cup. The tournament included three of World football’s biggest names – Italy, the World Cup Winners, Brazil, the winners of the Copa America, and Spain, the winners of the European Championships, and football’s up and coming force. Ultimately, though, an old favourite claimed glory in this competition.

From day one of Group A, it seemed that nobody could realistically match the quality of Spain. Their 5-0 thrashing of New Zealand set the tone for the rest of their tournament, whilst Fernando Torres’ 17 minute hattrick foreshadowed his own success in this tournament. Many believed Spain’s game against Iraq would provide an even larger annihilation, although ultimately a single David Villa goal was the difference. Spain secured their 100% record in the group stages by breezing past South Africa, thanks to second half goals from strikers Villa and Llorente. The chase for second spot proved to be far more competitive. South Africa met New Zealand in Rustenburg, in what proved to be a crucial clash. Goals from South Africa’s Parker, either side of half time, gave the hosts victory. Their lost to Spain left the door open for either Iraq or New Zealand to qualify. However, neither side could break the other down – a result that sent South Africa through to the Semi Finals.

The formation of Group B was largely similar, but even more dramatic. Brazil breezed through to the Semi Finals, beating the USA by 3 goals to nil, and humiliating World Cup holders Italy thanks to the same scoreline. This was not Italy’s only humiliation of the tournament, however. After two Rossi goals had given them a 3-1 win over the USA, Egypt stunned Italy, with Homos claiming the winning goal on 40 minutes. Egypt were ultimately on the brink of upsetting the great Brazil. Goals from Kaka, Luis Fabiano and Juan in the first half, alongside a Zidan goal from Egypt, had put Brazil in a position of consummate ease. However, Egypt had other ideas. In the most dramatic minute of the tournament, both Shawky and, seconds later, Zidan, scored to make it 3-3. There was heartache, however, as a late Kaka penalty denied Egypt a point. The USA, who had been thrashed by both Italy and Brazil, met Egypt in the last game of the group stage. A this stage the USA knew that they needed to win by 2 goals to qualify, as Brazil had just inflicted that large 3-0 defeat on to Italy. Bob Bradley’s team obliged – goals from Davies, Bradley and Dempsey sent USA through with a 3-0 win. It was the closed finish to a group in Confederations Cup history – one goal separated 2nd place USA from 4th place Egypt.

The Semi Finals set up two David versus Goliath clashes, both of which proved thrilling. Hosts South Africa withheld the Brazilian barrage for 88 minutes, but a brilliantly struck Daniel Alves freekick broke the hearts of the host nation. However, in Bloemfontein the USA stunned favourites Spain, thanks to goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. The Third Place playoff provided possibly the greatest game in the history of the competition. Mphela had given South Africa the lead against Spain, despite being dominated. However, Spain’s Guiza stepped up to the plate, scoring two goals in the last two minutes, to win the game for Spain. Or, at least that’s what we thought. South Africa struck again, again through Mphela, in the 93rd minute. Spain just had too much for the hosts however, and a spectacular Xabi Alonso goal gave them Third Spot.

The drama of the Third Place playoff set the scene for an enthralling final. USA had upset the odds throughout the tournament; surely they couldn’t do it again? 2 magnificent break away goals, first from Clint Dempsey, then from Landon Donnovan, put the US on the brink of a famous win. Brazil responded the only way they knew how, with beautiful attacking play of their own. Luis Fabiano, who finished as the tournament’s top scorer, got Brazil back into the game straight after half time, before adding his second with 15 minutes to go. In keeping with the rest of the tournament, Brazil’s winner came with just 6 minutes to go, thanks to their captain Lucio. It sparked wild celebrations for Brazil, who became the most successful side in the competitions history as a result.

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