This game played in Fortaleza saw the number one ranked Spain take on the African champs, Nigeria. Nigeria is number 31 in the world and this would be tough assignment for them. The Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi admitted before the game that to defeat Spain they would need some like. Well, luck was not on the side of the Super Eagles, but they did show that they are not a team to be taken lightly. Nigeria must win to have any hope of moving on in the tournament.
The contest would see the contrast of two very different styles of play. Nigeria plays without fear and with a lovely freedom. They are a very athletic side that is physical, fast and loves to go forward. For Nigeria to do well against La Roja their star, midfielder John Obi Mikel of Chelsea, would have to have a strong game and be a difference in both the offensive and defensive ends.
Coming into the game with only 1 loss in the last 20 games, Nigeria entered with a high level of confidence. Spain would not be thinking too much about that as they are on a 23 game winning streak. They took the game against Nigeria very seriously and would not make the mistake of taking them too lightly.
Spain was starting their 3rd different goaltender in 3 games. Victor Valdes got the start in nets for Spain. He, like 7 other members of the starting 11, plays his club games with FC Barcelona. This changing of his starters is not a surprise as Spanish coach Vincente Del Bosque had only started defender Sergio Ramos in all 3 games.
There was a lively start to the game with Iniesta in the 1st minute weaving his way into the Nigerian 18 yard box and got a shot off from a severe angle. It was stopped by Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama, who was a pretty busy man throughout the match. He might have stopped that one, but a mere couple of minutes later he was beaten for the game’s opening goal. It was the perfect start for Spain when left fullback Jordi Alba scored. Iniesta started the play by finding Alba just outside the 18 yard box. Jordi Alba showed some offensive skill by going by 3 Nigerian defenders and stroked the ball into the bottom right corner of the net. The Spanish player is a perfect example of the modern attacking defender and he was not finished on the offensive side.
Nigeria did not roll over after the early goal. They had chances and kept going forward. In the 11th minute Mikel had a good scoring chance that unfortunately deflected off a defender, the 14th minute after a rare misplay by Xavi Joseph Akpala puts a shot on net that turns into a simple save for Valdes and in the 20th minute Sunday Mba tested Valdes on a good shot from 20 yards out that forced the Spanish keeper to the ground to his left to make the save. The crowd was definitely in the underdogs’ corner as at different points during the game they broke into chants of “Nigeria” and were whistling in derision at the style of game that Spain plays.
For the rest of the 1st half the teams traded scoring chances. The best went to Spain when in the 39th minute a cross by Roberto Soldado found its way to Cesc Fabregas. His redirection hit the post to the left of Enyeama and some luck happened for Nigeria when the ball came back right under him. Spain went into the half time break with a slim 1-0 lead.
Nigeria gets its best chance of the game in the 51st minute when Ahmed Musa gets a break down the right side and crossed the ball. The ball went past everyone to an obviously surprised and not fully ready Brown Ideye. He does not even manage to get a shot off. Their lack of finish was what in the end killed Nigeria.
In the 60th minute Spain made an important substitution. Soldado went out and in came Fernando Torres. He was on less than 2 minutes when the Spanish striker made his mark on the game. Pedro crossed a bullet in from the left side towards the 6 yard box. A diving Torres got his head on it and it was in the back of the net in the blink of an eye. This was Torres’s 5th goal in this Confederations Cup and 8th overall in the tournament. Still a dangerous player at times, this was the Chelsea striker’s 104th cap for his country.
The last chance for Nigeria to score came in the 74th minute once again via Musa. He made another great run down the right side and found substitute Gambo Muhammad alone inside the box. Just on the striker scuffed his shot and missed the net completely. That was all she wrote for Nigeria offensively.
Demonstrating their soccer smarts, Spain demonstrated why you have to always be aware when playing them. In the 88th minute Spain was awarded a free kick deep inside their own end. The free kick was quickly taken by David Silva. Jordi Alba snuck in behind the Nigerian fullbacks, but was within his own half so he wasn’t offside. Silva hit him in stride and he ran in alone for half of the field. He then calmly went around the Nigerian keeper and put the ball into the empty net. The brace by the fullback sealed the deal for Spain and allowed them to win Group B with a lot to spare.
Despite the 3-0 score what was great about the game was that it was for the most part open and expansive. During large portions the play flowed from one end to the other. A joy to watch. Nigeria showed enough to demonstrate they can score against Spain. The world number ones showed why they are thought of to be the best team today and maybe ever. They have 15 goals in 3 matches and are undefeated so far.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
Linesmen – William Torres (El Salvador) and Juan Zumba (El Salvador)
-Goals: 1st Half:
3rd minute: Spain – Jordi Alba
62nd minute: Spain – Fernando Torres
88th minute: Spain – Jordi Alba
-Shots on Goal: Spain – 17
Nigeria – 8
-Corners: Spain – 6
Nigeria – 5
-Man of the Match: Jordi Alba – Spain
-Final Score: Spain – 3
Nigeria – 0