Xabi Alonso's free-kick in extra-time enabled Spain to see off the plucky
challenge of South Africa and clinch third place in the Confederations Cup.
European champions Spain, whose 35-match unbeaten run came to a shock end
against the United States in the semi-finals, were lethargic for much of the
encounter and appeared to be heading for another defeat when Katlego Mphela put
Bafana Bafana ahead after 73 minutes.
But two goals in the final three minutes from substitute Daniel Guiza turned
the match around only for Mphela to send the game into extra-time with a
Spain sealed it when Liverpool midfielder Alonso curled a 107th-minute
free-kick from the left into the area which eluded everyone and ended up in the
bottom right-hand corner.
Spain started the game brightly with David Villa shooting over the bar from
close range in the seventh minute.
But South Africa gradually came into it, Siphiwe Tshabalala firing a 20-yard
effort wide and Matthew Booth nodding off target after getting on the end of a
The impressive Tshabalala then tested Spain keeper Iker Casillas from 25 yards
with the Real Madrid star getting down well to parry.
Booth and Tshabalala both came close shortly after the half-hour mark as South
Africa remained on the front foot.
Spain were playing primarily on the counter-attack but it almost paid off with
Liverpool winger Albert Riera shooting wide from six yards after 36 minutes.
Vicente Del Bosque's side moved up a gear around half-time with Sergio Busquets
heading wide before the break and Villa seeing a 25-yard drive well saved by
home goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune shortly after the restart.
Khune also distinguished himself to keep out an effort from a hitherto
anonymous Fernando Torres after 51 minutes.
Indeed, Del Bosque hauled off first-choice attacking duo Villa and Torres five
minutes later, replacing them with David Silva and Guiza.
And the changes did, briefly, spark Spain into life with Riera shooting at
Khune and Santi Cazorla firing in a blistering 20-yard effort which the keeper
opted to punch over the bar.
But just as Spain were starting to look dangerous, South Africa scored.
Some neat build-up play resulted in Tshabalala escaping down the left and his
cross was controlled by Mphela before he lashed the ball high into the net.
Spain rarely threatened an equaliser until Guiza came to the fore late on.
His first goal came when he turned in a Cazorla cross with his right foot,
finding the bottom left-hand corner with an excellent finish.
His second goal had an element of luck about it with what appeared to be a
cross to the far post clipping the upright and going in.
That looked as though it would be enough for Spain but with the final kick of
the match, Mphela lashed in a spectacular 25-yard free-kick which flew past
Both sides had chances to win it in the first period of extra time, Joan
Capdevila's cross clipping the bar while at the other end Casillas saved well
from Mphela - denying the striker a hat-trick when he had had burst through -
and Bernard Parker.
But it was Alonso who had the final say two minutes into the second period with
a clever free-kick which finally ended the hosts' resistance.
South Africa coach Joel Santana preferred to focus on the positives of his side's Confederations Cup campaign despite their 3-2 defeat to Spain in the third/fourth play-off this afternoon.
Bafana Bafana defied expectations in reaching the semi-finals and ran European champions Spain close in Rustenburg before a pulsating game was finally settled by Xabi Alonso's free-kick in the second period of extra-time.
South Africa will host next summer's World Cup and Santana believes their achievements at this warm-up event will stand them in good stead for what is to come in 12 months' time.
He said: "We have had a good Confederations Cup. So it's a positive experience for us and our players.
"Experience is acquired with time. I believe we played very well. I'm very satisfied with our team, a team that was not well thought of.
"It gives us a very promising future."
Spain, whose 35-match unbeaten run came to a shock end against the United States in the semi-finals, were lethargic for much of the encounter and appeared to be heading for another defeat when Katlego Mphela put Bafana Bafana ahead after 73 minutes.
But two goals in the final three minutes from substitute Daniel Guiza turned the match around only for Mphela to send the game into extra-time with a blistering free-kick.
Spain sealed it when Liverpool midfielder Alonso curled a 107th-minute free-kick from the left into the area which eluded everyone and ended up in the bottom right-hand corner.
Santana added: "It was a fantastic game; it was a match that either team could have won.
"There is a little bit of inexperience from our side when it comes to keeping possession a little bit longer, but with time they will learn this."
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque was also satisfied with his team's efforts, both here and overall.
He said: "I think we have felt at ease at this Confederations Cup.
"We did lose against the United States, but even that was a positive experience for us.
"Today was difficult for us, we were playing against a side that attacked us a lot.
"They played some excellent football. In the first half, we could have won the match, but we missed some chances. But I think it was a good game of football, where both sides played very well."
South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune pulled off a string of fine saves and was distraught at having come out on the losing side.
He said: "We are devastated, it was one of those matches where we had a lot of chances to win, but we let them come back.
"We worked very hard in a very difficult game.
"We always felt we had a chance and we fought until the end. The tournament has been a good experience for all the boys and we have learned a lot."