Spain warned on Sunday there are plenty more victories left in them after setting a new world record by beating South Africa 2-0 for their 15th consecutive win.
Goals from David Villa and Fernando Llorente were enough to tame the Confederations Cup hosts late on Saturday and ensure the European champions top their group.
Real Madrid target Villa broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute and Athletic Bilbao’s Llorente sealed the game with 18 minutes left.
They now play the runner-up in Group B, likely Italy or Egypt, in the semifinals in Bloemfontein next Wednesday.
The win meant Spain have posted 15 victories in a row, surpassing the old record of 14 held by Australia, Brazil and France.
They also matched the 35-match unbeaten streak held by Brazil between 1993 and 1996, with Spain’s run stretching back to November 2006 when they lost to Romania.
”Winning 15 matches in a row is a huge success by this team and we want to go on like this,” said coach Vicente del Bosque.
”We’ve played a very good first part of this competition and we are now heading to the semis. We don’t know yet who we will meet but we will certainly have an opponent with huge potential.”
Barcelona midfielder Xavi, the man-of-the-match, paid tribute to Del Bosque, who has won all 13 matches since he took over.
”Of course we are very happy with the way the team is playing and Vicente doing a tremendous job,” he said.
”The idea is to continue this run and try and make it better.” Despite losing, South Africa still make the last four and a potential clash with Brazil after Iraq failed to beat New Zealand in the other group game being played simultaneously.
South Africa coach Joel Santana said his team staying in the competition was good for the country which hosts the World Cup next year.
”Against Spain, the team was not good but Bafana Bafana have qualified. It’s good for the people, good for the players and good for our preparations for the World Cup,” he said.
”This team has been together for two or three years and it is one of the best we have ever had.”
With their semifinal berth assured before the game even started, Del Bosque rested seven players.
He gave Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina a start and brought back Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, but retained the formidable Fernando Torres and Villa up front.
Liverpool midfielder Albert Reira nearly got them off to a flyer with a 40-yard freekick spectacularly turned around the post by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in the fourth minute.
Valencia striker Villa sent a header just over the bar a minute later as Spain made their intentions clear.
They were keeping possession well and creating opportunities with South Africa on the back foot. It was not until the 18th minute that the hosts had their first sniff of goal when Teko Modise blasted a freekick over the bar.
Spain kept up the pressure and Matthew Booth was forced to clear off the line before South Africa wasted a glorious chance when Everton’s Steven Pienaar put Bernard Parker in the clear only for the striker to send his shot wide.
The fireworks began six minutes into the second half when Fabregas was brought down by South African captain Aaron Mokoena and the referee rightly pointed to the spot.
Villa stepped up but Khune saved and then dealt with the rebound from Carlos Puyol.
The crowd went crazy but they were silenced barely a minute later when Villa beautifully controlled a lob by Reira and buried the ball in the net.
Llorente made sure of three points when he met a Xavi corner to slot the ball home from the six yard line and South Africa were fortunate not to concede more. – AFP