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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Spain 1-0 Iraq

Villa 55

The trouble with winning well is that it never goes unnoticed. For every barnstorming 5-0 victory, resplendent with glorious passing and breathtaking goals, there's always a coach out there somewhere who watches it and thinks, 'that's not going to happen to me.' More often than not it's Gary Megson, but on this occasion it was Bora Milutinovic, Iraq's veteran manager, who decided that if you can't beat them, bore them.

In a half-empty stadium that echoed regardless to the sound of those misbegotten Vuvuzela horns, Milutinovic dug his troops in deep inside his own half. A flat back five, covered by a solid midfield four who rarely strayed more than 10 yards in front of them. Wherever Spain pushed, Iraq dropped in to block. However hard they tried to stretch, Iraq found the men to cover. On unnaturally long grass, the Spanish played the ball around with their usual verve and energy, slowed only slightly by the treacherous surface. Their movement was excellent, they zigged and zagged around the pitch trying to find space, but the Iraqis weren't budging.

It took almost an hour for the resistance to crumble. A cross from Joan Capdevila howled into the penalty area and was met by the head of David Villa, who managed to evade the attentions of his markers. It was his 18th goal in 18 games for his country and it edged him up into second place on Spain's all-time top goalscorer list. Only Raul stands in front of him now. Villa is a wonderful footballer, fleet-footed and wily, but it is his persistence that marks him out as a world class striker. Just moments before he had edged a point blank header directly into the arms of Mohammed Kassid, a poor miss from a striker of such quality. Compare and contrast his reaction though with, say, Kenwyne Jones after he missed a sitter against Liverpool last season. The Sunderland striker's head dropped and he barely touched the ball again. That's the difference.

Spain certainly needed to keep their composure. This was a frustrating afternoon that could have descended into a lethargic keep-ball session, but they kept pushing forward and making chances. Kassid made a number of accomplished stops, but Iraq had very little to offer in response outside of a wildly-struck free-kick and a rather surprising late rally. The glow of their astonishing Asian Cup glory has begun to fade.

Spain, on the other hand, continue to shine. New Zealand have discovered to their cost that you can't take them on at their own game and expect anything other than a spanking. Iraq have just found out that even the toughest, most diligent defence will inevitably buckle under the strain. This win was Spain's fifteenth consecutive victory, a new world record for a team who seem determined to prove that the glory of 2008 was no fluke. With a growing air of invincibility, even when facing a team who refuse to come out and play, who would be brave enough to bet against them securing the ultimate glory in 2010?


Crowd - N/A
Yellow Cards - Alonso, Marchena (Spain), Basim (Iraq)
Red Cards - None
Spain - Iker Casillas 7, Gerard Pique 7, Carlos Marchena 7, Joan Capdevila 8, Sergio Ramos 7, Xabi Alonso 7, Xavi 8 (Sergio Busquets 7 82nd), Juan Manuel Mata 7, Santi Carzorla 7 (David Silva 7, 67th), David Villa 8 (Daniel Guiza 7, 75th), Fernando Torres 7
Iraq -
Mohammed Kassid 7, Mohammed Ali Karim 7, Basim Abba 7, Farid Majeed 7, Nashat Akram 6, Hawar Mulla 6 (Karrar Jassam 6, 70), Salem Shaker 6, Hussein Rahema 6, Alaa Abdul-Zahra 7 (Younis Mahmoud 6, 80th), Samer Saeed 6 (Mahdi 6, 60th), Muayad Khalid 6