Spain took just 350 seconds to find the net while Group A rivals South Africa and Iraq failed to do so over 90 minutes as the Confederations Cup got off to a mixed start on Sunday.
Liverpool striker Fernando Torres scored a hat-trick within 17 minutes of the kick-off as tournament favorites Spain routed New Zealand 5-0 at a half-full Rustenburg stadium.
A near-capacity 48,000 crowd in Johannesburg saw the hosts create and waste several good scoring chances as ultra-cautious Iraq held out for a 0-0 draw in an event serving as a dress rehearsal for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The result confirmed that European champions Spain are set to steamroll past their three pool opponents and into the semi-finals of a tournament last staged four years ago in Germany and won by Brazil. But who joins them in the knockout phase is far from certain and blunt South Africa could rue their failure to put away the Asian champions in the opening match of the two-week tournament.
African kingpins Egypt were to be the first Group B opponents for Brazil in Bloemfontein yesterday, with World Cup holders Italy facing the US later in Pretoria.
Spain wasted little time getting down to business, forcing a corner on four minutes and Torres scored off a Cesc Fabregas pass soon after to trigger a rout of the All Whites. He curled the ball into the net for his first, sidefooted it home for the second and headed the third before Arsenal midfielder Fabregas was set up by Juan Capdevila for the fourth midway through the opening half.
At this stage the Cup record winning margin of six goals achieved twice by Brazil appeared set to fall, but the Euro 2008 winners managed only one more three minutes into the second half from David Villa as they eased off.
“We did what we had to do, we started with a good rhythm and played good football and were leading 4-0 after 24 minutes. The second half was a question of saving energy for our next match,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.
Torres added: “It was great for the team and for me it is always important to score. I got three so I’m very happy.”
South Africa coach Joel Santana slammed negative Iraq, but when his team did break through they were guilty of a finishing that bodes ill for their chances of making an impression as World Cup hosts.
Strikers Bernard Parker and Terror Fanteni lacked support from an unimaginative midfield and the former blocked a goal-bound Kagisho Dikgacoi header late in the second half.
Substitute Katlego Mashego was another culprit, bursting through soon after his 78th-minute entrance only for goalkeeper Mohammed Kassis to advance bravely and push the ball away.
“Iraq never tried to play football,” complained Santana. “They tried to paralyze the game. We could easily have scored two or three goals. That is football sometimes.”
Widely traveled Iraq coach Bora Milutinovic countered: “It was not easy playing the host nation. We did everything to try and win the game. I’m sorry if you thought it was boring.”
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