South Africa: Arendse; Nzama, Radebe (Molefe 80'),
Aaron Mokoena, Carnell; Zuma, Sibaya, Teboho Mokoena, Fortune (Lekgetho 83');
Nomvethe (Koumantarakis 74'), Benni McCarthy. 4-4-2.
Spain: Casillas; Curro Torres, Iván Helguera, Nadal, Romero; Xavi, Albelda (Sergio 53'); Joaquín, Raúl (Luis Enrique 82'), Mendieta; Morientes (Luque 77').4-2-3-1.
0-1. 04. Raúl. Robbed ball off keeper after he failed to hold on to Mendieta shot.
1-1. 31. McCarthy. Pulled ball into net from right of goal after Nomvethe headed on.
1-2. 45. Mendieta. Bent free kick from left of area around defensive wall.
2-2. 54. Radebe. Header down into bottom corner following corner from right.
2-3. 57. Raúl. Headed Joaquín's long cross from right wide of Arendse.
The run continues! We must now be on for our first ever World cup title after we win our third game in a row, and we do it with a team of reserves. Camacho fools us all this time, saying before the game that maybe three changes at most as this was such an important fixture, on account of us not wanting to see Germany even in a painting, as we say around here. If we lose to South Africa today that is exactly what will happen, whereas a win or a draw and it's off to play the jolly Irish, who Goran tells me are not great footballers but are pretty good at hurling, especially after several pints of Guinness. I'm not sure what he is talking about.
Anyway back to the plot, and when the players come out it's hard to recognise anyone. At first we think we have come to the wrong match, but no, there are Raúl and Casillas and also Nadal, the only ones who keep their places. All the rest are making their first start in the World cup, and it is nice to see Mendieta returning on the left of midfield in a formation similar to the one used by Deportivo, with Xavi and Albelda as double pivots (isn't that a basketball term?).
Mendieta makes his first contribution with only four minutes gone, and although his ball is a bit too long, the South African keeper makes a corned beef hash of it and Raúl, quick as a lightening flash, takes the ball out from under hands and rolls it into the net. One up, and we may be on for a bagful here.
Morientes is playing up front in place of the injured Tristán, who is likely to be out for a few more days at least, and the Real Madrid striker almost beats Arendse again after connecting with a cross from young Joaquín, who is showing the world what Spain will have to offer in the future. Only 20 years old, but already starting to make a place for himself in the full side. But then a lapse of concentration, and South Africa are level through Benni McCarthy, a player who had to leave Spain after failing to win a regular spot in Celta's first team. Maybe Camacho's plan isn't so good after all.
And now the game is approaching half time, and Goran is already fighting his way to the bar for a cup of hot sake. Beats Bovril any time. But wait, it's a free kick and Mendieta is spotting the ball up. The keeper is happy he has lined the wall up correctly, but he leaves a gap in the far corner and Mendieta finds it with a curling shot. He is happy, having not scored in any match since last September, and Barcelona fans must be too, as he has apparently signed for the Blaugrana next season. Worth getting season tickets maybe, despite the return of Van Gaal. Mendieta dedicates the goal to his daughter Haize, and the referee says it is half time.
Goran returns cursing his bad luck, and he curses again when Romero back heads a corner kick straight to Radebe, who heads down past Casillas. Now it's two all, and another South Africa goal and its off to meet the feared Germans. In the midday sun. But why worry when you've got Raúl? Or Joaquín for that matter. The young Betis player cuts in from the right and finds the Madrid forward with a pinpoint cross (if ever a pin was more pointed, this was it), and it's in the back of the net. Three now to the maestro, and he is once again only a goal behind Hierro as Spain's all time top scorer.
There is some dinging at one end and some donging at the other, and Camacho brings on Luque for his first cap. Within minutes he gets a good chance but hits it straight at the keeper, and Luis Enrique misses another one when he comes on a bit later. Maybe though our players know that this result means that South Africa are qualified on goal difference behind Spain and Paraguay are out, and don't want to score again. Remember Paraguay knocked us out four years ago after playing out a very dubious draw, and Chilavert has said some nasty things about us.
But then we hear that Paraguay have scored another and they will be going through if nothing else happens. Somehow South Africa don't seem to mind and take it easy, but only afterwards we find out why. Their manager did not tell them so not to get them upset! (You must remember him, the portly one Jomo Sono who makes the very un-African gestures when they score). We bet they were not happy rabbits when they got off the field mind you, not happy rabbits at all. "You thought what?", we can hear them saying. There will be some Zulu tribesmen who will have a good idea where to insert their spears when Mr. Sono comes home.
So Spain end the first phase top of the group, with nine points out of a possible nine. At last we have started a competition well, and maybe now we have some confidence. After what Spanish teams have done in Europe recently, they should be used to winning by now. Better still we know we have got two teams, with our reserves winning this one, and Goran says that maybe FIFA will let us split the points four and a half each and put Spain A and Spain B through to the next round?
Lets not get carried away just yet though. First of all its the Irish on Sunday and the team tactics to think about. Now maybe if we drink all the Guinness in Suwon their supports won't turn up and we will have a better chance. Come on Goran, better start right away...