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Torres tricks as Spain thrashes Kiwis

FERNANDO Torres helped Spain pick up where it left off at a major football tournament, and South Africa did little to show it would be a contender at this year's Confederations Cup.

The Spain striker scored three goals in the first 17 minutes to help the European champion rout New Zealand 5-0 on the opening day of the eight-team tournament. Hosts South Africa, however, were unlucky and had to settle for a 0-0 draw against Iraq in the opening match at Ellis Park.

Torres, who scored the lone goal in Spain's 1-0 win over Germany in last year's European Championship final, put his team ahead in just the sixth minute in Rustenburg, curling a shot past New Zealand goalkeeper Glen Moss. He made it 2-0 in the 14th, side-footing a pass from David Villa into the net, and completed the hat-trick with a header from Joan Capdevila's cross.

"The truth is that it was a great boost for the team to come out and start like that," Torres said. "Now I just want to keep scoring goals in the tournament and try to be the top scorer in the end."

Cesc Fabregas and Villa also scored for Spain, which stretched its unbeaten streak to 33 games, two shy of Brazil's record.

"Basically, we were superior," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves just yet. Today they made it easy for us in the first half."

Spain's leads Group A with three points and next faces Iraq.

"I don't think you or they are surprised by what happened on the field," New Zealand coach Riki Herbert said. "It was always going to be tough for us, but we still have two big matches left."

The atmosphere at the Royal Bafokeng stadium was dulled by the thousands of empty seats. But in Johannesburg, the vuvuzela trumpets rang out loud as the local fans supported their team in earnest.

The hosts, however, failed to convert an easy opportunity in the 84th minute when a header from Kagisho Dikgacoi hit the back of the leg of South Africa forward Bernard Parker on the goal line and bounced out.

"I wanted to drop dead," Parker said.

Although Mohammed Kassid may have been beaten on that play, the Iraq goalkeeper made some other outstanding saves to preserve the draw, including a one-on-one stop from forward Katlego Mashego late in the match.

Iraq played a defensive game, keeping most players behind the ball and creating very little in the form of an attack.

"There were only 33 minutes of football played in the first half," South Africa coach Joel Santana said. "Iraq kept stopping the game all the time. They didn't like to play."

While the draw was a boost for Iraq, it hurt South Africa's chances of advancing to the semifinals of the tournament that is being used as a warmup for next year's World Cup.

"In the opening game, if you can get three points, it takes a lot of pressure off us," said South Africa midfielder Steve Pienaar, who came on as a late substitute because he is recovering from a stomach bug. "Now we have our back against the wall."

South Africa next plays New Zealand in Rustenburg, and then faces Spain in Bloemfontein.

"We just have to stay focused," Pienaar said. "We have to give everything in the last two games."


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