It was day 2 of the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil and after a scintillating early match between Italy and Mexico (Italy won 2-1) the second would see the celebrated and number one Spanish side take on the 19th ranked Uruguay
The Confederations Cup is the one jewel missing out of the Spanish soccer crown. Known as La Roja, the Spanish are the dominant soccer nation of the past couple years having won the World Cup in 2010 and the Euros in 2012. They are a team of a quality that does not come around too often and are really eager to win the one major title that has eluded them. If they win the Confederations Cup they would have to be considered one of the greatest soccer teams of all time.
Spanish coach Vincente del Bosque has an outstanding roster to work with. He is faced with a problem that many a manager would love to have in that he has too many good players and has to try to keep them all happy. For instance, on this day he has talent like David Villa, David Silva and Fernando Torres sitting on the bench.
Now, Uruguay is no shrinking violet in that they have a pair of strikers who could strike fear into any defence. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Napoli’s Edinson Cavani are both world class scorers. They also boast the veteran Diego Forlan coming off the bench, so goal scoring is not going to be Uruguay’s problem.
The game took place in Recife at Arena Pernambuco on the northeast coast of the large country that is Brazil. It was no way as exciting as the earlier Italy-Mexico game. The whole thing rather looked like a training session for Spain such was their control over the entire proceedings from the opening whistle. They scored both their goals in the 1st half and from there just coasted until the end.
The proverbial writing was on the wall from the opening 5 minutes when Spain enjoyed 92% of the possession. In the 20th minute Spain went ahead off a set play. Xavi took a corner that was only partially cleared by the Uruguayan defence. The ball fell to Pedro and he took a shot from outside the box that fortuitously deflected off Uruguay’s captain Diego Lugano and gave keeper Fernando Muslera not a chance as he was going the other way. Not a great start or sign of things to come for Muslera on the occasion of his 27th birthday.
Twelve minutes later Spain doubled their lead to 2-0 on a goal by Soldado. The incredibly gifted midfielder Iniesta started the play when he played the ball to Pedro wide on the right hand side. Pedro cleverly touched the ball back to the top of the box to Soldado, who, like had done it a million times, calmly put it into the back of the net.
The 2nd half was less than scintillating as Spain was content to just pass the ball back and forth between themselves rarely allowing Uruguay to touch the ball let alone get a sniff at Spanish keeper Iker Casillas. Speaking of the Spanish goaltender, Casillas was a surprise started as he had been out with a left hand injury since January. He had very little to do in the game so it was the perfect game to get him into.
Uruguay’s only moment of brilliance was very late in the contest and came courtesy of Suarez. After being awarded a free kick from roughly 23 yards out, Suarez took control and took the shot. It couldn’t have been struck more expertly. The ball was hit so it went right over the wall and then down into the net plus curling away from Casillas. No goalie alive could have made the save. It was, however, too little too late as scoring in the 88th minute did nothing but erase Casillas’s clean sheet.
Spain was dominant throughout the match. They enjoyed an amazing 71% of the possession; it was a passing clinic with them stringing together a double digit amount of passes without interruption. They were in total control of the tempo of the game. Now, some critics deride their style of play saying that the pace and lack of creativity makes for a dull game. We could debate that until the cows come home, but even if you are not a fan of their style of play you cannot argue against the effectiveness of it.
La Roja’s next game is against Tahiti on Thursday. Also on Thursday, Uruguay will face Nigeria.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Yuichi Nishimura (Japan)
Linesmen – Toru Sagara (Japan) and Toshiyuki Nagi (Japan)
-Goals: 1st Half:
20th minute: Spain – Pedro
32nd minute: Spain – Soldado
88th minute: Uruguay – Luis Suarez
-Shots on Goal: Spain – 9
Uruguay – 2
-Corners: Spain – 5
Uruguay – 1
-Man of the Match: Iniesta – Spain
-Final Score: Spain – 2
Uruguay – 1