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Spain beaten in friendly on return to South Africa

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The Canadian Press
11/19/2013 5:06:54 PM
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Spain's return to the stadium where it won the World Cup was spoiled Tuesday as Bernard Parker's second-half goal gave South Africa a shock 1-0 win over the world and European champion.

Spain was subdued -- and possibly tired after its friendly in Equatorial Guinea three days ago -- and only really threatened in the dying minutes of the international friendly when substitutes Santi Cazorla and Koke were denied by saves from Itumeleng Khune at FNB Stadium, the venue formerly known as Soccer City and where Spain celebrated its finest football moment three years ago.

The World Cup holder started with Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta in midfield and David Villa and Fernando Llorente up front, but South African striker Parker converted one of few clear-cut chances in the game when he collected a neat one-two just to the left of goal and his chip bounced up off goalkeeper Victor Valdes and into the net in the 56th minute.

"I'm the happiest man in the world. I scored against the world champions," Parker said.

The result gave Spain some food for thought just over six months ahead of its World Cup defence in Brazil, and brightened the mood for South Africa, which failed to qualify for the World Cup at its first attempt since hosting the showcase tournament.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was gracious in defeat, warmly congratulating his counterpart Gordon Igesund with a smile and an embrace. As Spain's players slipped away, the South Africans made the most of their first ever victory over Spain, celebrating in the dressing room with South African President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma hugged and shook hands with Igesund as players recorded the moment on their cellphones.

The Spanish squad also brought the World Cup trophy with them, putting it on display on a pedestal on the pitch ahead of kickoff while midfielder Alonso thanked South Africa for the joy the tournament title gave to Spain three years ago.

Spain dominated possession in its typically patient and measured style, but couldn't find a decisive cutting edge, while South Africa skipper Khune was in good form in goal. He smothered an early chance for Villa in the 25th minute, while Llorente sent a header wide two minutes later.

Del Bosque introduced all six of his substitutes, Victor Valdes, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Juan Mata, Cazorla and Koke, in the second half and it nearly backfired when Valdes went down injured in the last 20 minutes and defender Alvaro Arbeloa had to briefly fill in as goalkeeper. After a few minutes, the host allowed Spain to make an extra change and bring on Pepe Reina.

Spain's two best chances of forcing a draw came in injury time, first when Khune denied Cazorla and then when the goalkeeper dived across full length to his left to palm away an effort from Koke.

Itumeleng Khune (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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