Ellis Park was host to a beautiful game of soccer on Monday night. Spain attacked, then attacked, and then, for a change, attacked. From their side, Honduras was a fair partner, too. It ended Spain 2, Honduras 0.
It could very well have been 5-0 to Spain. Honduras were comprehensively beaten, and will consider themselves fortunate not to have conceded more goals against a side that defined the absolutes in every area, except perhaps right in front of goal.
Never mind the result – Spain have a bit of a problem. They dominate play, and create chances, but can’t seem to get the number of deserved goals in. It seems to be an issue of having too many choices in their strike force. Choosing which striker will play, and where, is not simple when you have so much talent available.
Spain certainly created the chances. The midfield engine of Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso and, later on, Fabregas, controlled the pace of the game and, almost at leisure, unleashed incisive passes to the two forwards. On many occasions, David Villa and Torres had only to make one or two critical touches to set themselves up for an attempt, but ended up either missing the opportunity or smashing the ball against the opposition’s defenders. It is an area of concern to them and they do need to work on that before, hopefully, moving on to the later stages of the tournament, where such mistakes will come at a very heavy price.
Spain are also a little too clever for their own good, making too many passes and too many touches on the ball before a player makes up his mind to have a shot at goal. It sounds ludicrous, given their collective talent, but they do need to simplify their game a little when going forward. Xavi, to his credit, did make a lot of simple, yet devastating passes, but players like Jesus Navas may need to look at their midfield play.
Fernando Torres is also not the player he was before his knee surgery in April. He missed two chances in front of goals: the one a header that he needed to strike down, and the other a chance that he crafted skilfully but then failed to capitalise on. It was a frustrating evening for El Nino, and you get the sense that Vicente Del Bosque may have to decide to give players like Juan Manuel Mata a call-up ahead of Torres.
Villa had a cracker of an evening, scoring two excellent goals. He could have easily made that a hat trick had he had more composure in taking that penalty.
But it was a solid performance by the Spanish side: one that doesn’t guarantee them a spot in the last 16, but certainly a very emphatic bid. Honduras are sitting at the bottom of group H, and will be making the trip back home after their meeting with Switzerland in Bloemfontein on 25 June. They still have something to contribute to this tournament – Switzerland need to beat them and hope Spain somehow fade against Chile in order to go through. Very remote, but we’ve seen crazier things happen.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila; Jesus Navas, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, 1Sergio Busquets; Fernando Torres, David Villa.
Honduras: Noel Valladares; Sergio Mendoza, Osman Chavez, Maynor Figueroa, Emilio Izaguirre; Danilo Turcios, Wilson Palacios, Amado Guevara, Roger Espinoza; Walter Martinez; David Suazo.
Man of the match
Goals are clearly on the mind of Vicente Del Bosque. Fernando Torres starts tonight. Iniesta is still nursing an injury he sustained in the shock loss against Switzerland. Jesus Navas starts in place of David Silva.
No Fabregas? (You can take the boy out of Arsenal…)
David Suazo starts for Honduras tonight.
Fernando Torres has dyed his hair a Marmite black for tonight’s match.
- 3rd minute: First bit of action for Noel Valladares: he pounces on a cross from Jesus Navas.
- 5th minute: Fernando Torres misjudges a pass from David Villa and fluffs a shot at goal.
That was almost a penalty against Honduras. A Honduran player definitely handled the ball in the area, but no luck for the Spanish as the Japanese referee waves play on.
- 6th minute: That was close. Villa beats the Honduran keeper with a long shot that strikes the top bar.
- 8th minute: First yellow card to Danilo Turcios for interfering with a Spanish free kick.
- 9th minute: Sergio Mendoza almost gives away another penalty to Spain. He pushed Sergio Ramos down in the area. Luck is not on Spain’s side again.
- 10th minute: Sergio Ramos has another opportunity in front of goal, but sends his header over the poles.
Ramos collides with Nelson Valladares in that attempt, and the Honduran keeper gets a knee to his face.
- 13th minute: Iker Casillas has his first touch of the ball, collecting a deep cross from Sergio Mendoze.
- 13th minute: Villa has another shot, this one going quite wide.
Casillas has been accused of a loss of concentration in that first match against Spain, apparently because of the presence of his girlfriend in the stands behind him.
- 16th minute: Casillas charges out to clamber onto a ball that very nearly falls for David Suazo.
- 17th minute: That’s more like it from Spain. Villa dances away from three defenders to thump one past Valladares. Goal to Spain!
- 19th minute: Sergio Mendoza brings Villa down. Free kick to Spain. Xavi takes it, and delivers an excellent ball to Ramos, who bundles over a Honduran player in the attempt. Free kick to Honduras.
- 23rd minute: Carlos Puyol does well to defend a cross meant for Walter Martinez.
- 23rd minute: Jesus Navas tries to set Xavi up for a point-blank range header, but it’s just too far for the Spanish midfielder.
- 30th minute: Xavi tries to thread a ball through for Torres, but the shot has just a little too much pace in it for the striker.
- 32nd minute: Villa tries to feed a pass through into the heart of the Honduran penalty area
- 33rd minute: Torres has an excellent chance to go 2-0 up against Honduras with a header, but strikes the ball down and out.
- 33rd minute: Torres has another chance to score, this one far more promising than the first, but screws the shot over the poles.
- Well, this is not the Torres we know.
- 35th minute: Torres has a great run on goal, but is judged offside on this occasion.
- 38th minute: Yellow card to Emilio Izaguirre for a tap on Navas’s ankle from behind.
- 39th minute: Xavi passes the ball to Navas, who attempts a cross. It deflects off a Honduran defender’s leg and heads dangerously towards Valladares. The Honduran keeper catches it.
- 40th minute: Villa is a little off balance to try a shot on goal, but does so in any case. It goes out.
- 41st minute: A little tap on Izaguirre’s face by Villa. The Japanese referee didn’t see that. Potential yellow card there.
Xavi has all the room he wants in the belly of Spain’s midfield. Odd that the Hondurans aren’t closing him down, considering how many of Spain’s decisive passes come from Xavi.
- 43rd minute: Fernando Torres goes down in the penalty area. No penalty.
- 45th minute: Villa makes a bursting run down the right flank and reaches Torres with a pass. The Spanish striker cannot get a clear shot off.
End of the first half.
Roger Espinoza makes way for George Welcome.
- 45th minute: Maynor Figueroa tries to catch Casillas, who is off his line, with a shot from very far off, but has no luck.
- 50th minute: Just what the doctor ordered. David Villa gets a curling shot in. It takes a slight deflection off Osman Chavez’s foot and beats Valladares.
- 52nd minute: Ramos tries to smash one in from distance. That was very close.
- 53rd minute: Navas fancies his chances. No luck.
Gerard Pique is off with blood pouring out of his mouth. He took boot in the face in the line of duty. Spain are, for the moment, a man down.
- 55th minute: Honduras are living very dangerously at the moment.
Pique is back on, with a mouthful of what appears to be cotton wool to stop the bleeding.
- 59th minute: Villa gets a cross in from a very difficult angle, but strikes it straight at Valladares.
- 61st minute: Penalty to Spain. Izaguirre sweeps Navas off his feet just inside the area. Villa to take it. He’s on a hat trick here. Villa sends Valladares the wrong way, and beats the goal as well. Oh dear.
Photo: Spain’s David Villa takes a penalty kick during a 2010 World Cup Group H match against Honduras at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Can’t help but remember Itumeleng Khune’s save of Villa’s penalty in the Confederations Cup.
- 63rd minute: Ramon Nunez comes off for Danilo Turcios.
- 64th minute: Free kick to Spain. Xavi’s shot doesn’t get past the Honduran players.
- 65th minute: Greedy play from David Suazo, who opts to shoot instead of passing to a player who had a better sight of goal. The shot skewers.
- 66th minute: Fransesc Fabregas come on for Xavi.
- 66th minute: Cesc Fabregas is almost off to a dream start after beating Valladares, but doesn’t get it past Chavez. The Honduran cleared that one off the line.
- 67th minute: Honduras are very, very lucky. A good shot by Ramos goes just out after taking a deflection.
- 68th minute: Free kick to Honduras. Nunez goes for a straight shot at goal, but can’t get it to dip behind the wall.
- 69th minute: Torres comes off for Juan Manuel Mata.
- 72nd minute: Juan Manuel Mata’s long shot goes wide.
- 73rd minute: Another cross from Jesus Navas finds no one in the Honduran penalty area. Navas is committing rather too many missed crosses.
- 75th minute: Navas does better to put Villa in for a shot, but the pass is just too fast for Villa.
- 76th minute: Last substitution for Spain. Ramos comes off for Alvaro Arbeloa.
- 77th minute: Nunez thumps one wide.
- 78th minute: Free kick to Spain. Fabregas takes it, and can’t find a good shot.
- 79th minute: Puyol leaps into the air to connect with a corner, but he doesn’t leap high enough to keep the ball down.
- 80th minute: Villa smashes a shot into a Honduran.
- 81st minute: Free kick to Honduras. Amado Guevaa finds Welcome with the free kick, but cannot find the goal.
- 82nd minute: Figueroa denies Villa his hat trick with a craning header to intercept a header.
- 83rd minute: Arbeloa clears a header out.
- 83rd minute: Suazo comes off and Jerry Palacios come on.
- 86th minute: Villa comes within inches of scoring his third, and yet again he’s denied, this time by Sergio Mendoza.
Villa misjudged the amount of time he had to set himself up for a goal there.
- 89th minute: A great one-two play between Xabi Alonso and Mata to set the latter up for a run-in on goal. The last touch is struck too hard.
- 91st minute: Manuel Mata and then Fabregas both see themselves blocked in the Honduran penalty area.
Spain are clearly guilty of having too many touches in attack. No player wants to take responsibility for the final shot.
End of the match.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Maim photo: Spain’s Sergio Ramos (2nd L) and Gerard Pique jump for the ball as Honduras’ goalkeeper Noel Valladares reacts during a 2010 World Cup Group H match at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Kooren