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FIFA Confederations Cup

Team GB v Brazil - International Friendly

Kick-off: 1900 BRT, 2100 GMT, 0330 IST

Venue: Estadio de Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers

This is a final the footballing world wanted to see. Spain are the form team at the moment and are a team few have managed to beat in the last seven years. Their back-to-back European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012 on either side of their first ever World Cup triumph is South Africa bears testament to just how good they are.

And then there’s Brazil, the guys who play football for fun. A walk on the beach in any Brazilian town will deliver the usual sights of children and adults frolicking in the water while others lie spread eagled on the sand in an attempt to soak up the sun. There may not be much place for them to do that though, on account of the smattering of kids having a kickabout on whatever vacant bit of sand they find.

Football is so deeply enmeshed in Brazilian culture. Not for nothing does their iconic canary-yellow jersey have five very deserving stars. The world is waiting to see Brazil reoccupy their positions as titans of the beautiful game and today could be an excellent litmus test in regard to what we see a year on.

The journey so far

Brazil

The Selecao have thrived at home. They are the only team to not concede a goal first and have grabbed headlines with their brand of football that is as effective as it is entertaining.

That entertainment value was shown to the world when the hosts dissected Japan 3-0, with goals from Neymar, Paulinho and Jo. They then showcased patience when they were required to wait before Jo sealed all three points after Dante’s strike deep into the first half.

It’s been a while since Brazil played a competitive fixture against the big boys but despite being under siege against both Italy (4-2) and Uruguay (2-1), they were able to come out the other side relatively unscathed.

Spain

The Red Fury have developed from perennial chokers to world beaters. A look at their previous outing at the tournament in 2009 bears testament to that. Failing to get out of the group stages in South Africa, the Roja have showed just how much they have developed as a team by getting to the final this time around.

They kicked off their tournament with a somewhat fortunate win over Uruguay (2-1) and put ten past Tahiti to give the islanders their joint worst result. They showed their quality when they outclassed Nigeria 3-0, with the score line being so because although the Nigerians did create as many chances as the World Champions, they did not have the quality up front to take them.

Team News

Brazil

The South Americans have a full roster of players to choose from and given that they have performed very well with nearly the same team for every game so far, there will be little left to the imagination regarding the team Luis Felipe Scolari will pick for this showpiece game.

Despite Jo having scored in two games, he is unlikely to start this game. Fred has scored three so far and his predatory instincts mean he will most probably start up front.

Squad (from): Jefferson, Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Fernando, Marcelo, Lucas, Hernanes, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Júlio César, Dante, Filipe Luís, Jean, Réver, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Hulk, Bernard, Jô, Diego Cavalieri, Jádson

Probable Starting XI: Cesar, Alves, Silva (c), Luiz, Marcelo, Gustavo, Oscar, Paulinho, Neymar, Hulk, Fred

Spain

Like Brazil, the current world champions also have a full complement of players and while Brazil’s team pretty much picks itself, Vicente del Bosque has a dilemma of whom to play up front. Roberto Soldado has performed well when asked to lead the line but Fernando Torres (goals aside) put in a good shift against the Italians.

And then there is David Villa, who hasn’t seen much action but is Spain’s top scorer. In addition, Jesus Navas has performed admirably when brought on from the bench and could be in contention for a starting berth.

Squad (from):Iker Casillas (c), Raúl Albiol, Gerard Piqué, Javi Martínez, César Azpilicueta, Andrés Iniesta, David Villa, Xavi Hernández, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fàbregas, Pedro Rodríguez, Víctor Valdés, Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Álvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Jesús Navas, Pepe Reina

Probable Starting XI:Casillas, Azpilicueta, Ramos, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Navas, Villa

Media Speak

“They (Spain) are the best side in the world and are favourites. We must play football and not fear them. We are playing the best team of the world nowadays, but we also have great players in the Brazilian national team.” – Neymar, forward, Brazil

“We are playing Spain by respecting their quality, but also trying to show our potential and talent. We have reached the final and we have enough quality to get past them.Spain are a totally integrated team but we’ll play with our own style, with the way we’ve been playing so far.” – Luis Felipe Scolari, Coach, Brazil

“Brazil are favourites because they are playing at home and I don’t know how many thousand people will be behind them. We must turn that into a form of motivation for us. There is no bigger challenge than beating Brazil at their home ground.Brazil are a great team and have played a spectacular championship so far. But we have a very good team too, and I have no hesitation in saying we are going for the title.” – Andres Iniesta, midfielder, Spain

Prediction

The most memorable meeting between the two sides was at the 1934 World Cup in Italy. Jose Iraragorri scored two at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to give Spain a 3-1 win and end the Selecao’s dreams of winning the championship despite Leonidas’ second half strike.

This time around, Spain are the more experienced but Brazil have a fanatical home support whose energy they have been feeding off throughout the tournament. The hosts however will continue to play the way they do irrespective of the support they receive and a win here will announce the return of Brazil to the world’s stage

Brazil 2-1 Spain

 

Kick-off: 30th June, 2013, 13:00 BRT, 17:00 GMT, 21:30 IST

Venue: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

Referee: DjamelHaimoudi

While not living up to the top billing that the Confederations Cup’s blockbuster final between Brazil and Spain will have, the third-place final between Uruguay and Italy which will determine who will finish third (and fourth) does merit a game that deserves watching.

Uruguay:

The Journey so Far:

Placed in a group that included World Champions Spain, African Nations Cup winners Nigeria and underdogs Tahiti, who had qualified as winners of the OFC Nations Cup, first place was quite possible for the Uruguayans who lost their opening game to Spain, which meant that the group’s meat and potatoes game was going to take place between the Celeste and the Super Eagles.

On that day, Diego Forlan made sure his 100th game would always be a memorable one with a terrific strike that ensured the South Americans finished second in their group behind the Spanish.

Despite matching the Brazilians almost blow for blow, the sheer talent that the hosts had meant that Neymar’s and Paulinho’s goals either side of EdinsonCavani’s strike broke Uruguayan hearts at they would have to settle for a consolatory third/fourth place game in the backyard of their old rivals.

Italy were beaten 1-0 in an international friendly in Rome in November 2011 by the Celeste and coach Oscar Tabarez will be hoping for a similar result this time around as well. His side also has the advantage of a day’s rest over the Italians, who played against Spain on Thursday.

Team News:

Oscar Tabarez has a full squad to choose from and is likely to maybe give a few of his fringe players a run out. Both EdinsonCavani and Luis Suarez have found the net only once in this tournament (the game against Tahiti notwithstanding and that could be reason enough for dropping one of them in favour of someone like Abel Hernandez or Gaston Ramirez.

Squad (from): Fernando Muslera, Diego Lugano (c), Diego Godín, Sebastián Coates, Walter Gargano, Álvaro Pereira, Cristian Rodríguez, SebastiánEguren, Luis Suárez, Diego Forlán, Abel Hernández, Juan Castillo, MatíasAguirregaray, NicolásLodeiro, Diego Pérez, Maxi Pereira, EgidioArévalo Ríos, GastónRamírez, Andrés Scotti,Álvaro González    , EdinsonCavani, Martín Cáceres, Martín Silva

Probable Starting XI: Muslera, Pereira, Coates, Lugano (c), Caceres, Gargano, Eguren, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Suarez, Forlan

Italy

The Journeyso Far

Italyare here because Spain qualified as winners of the 2010 World Cup and are therefore officially the representatives of Europe.

That being said, their group stage games were characterised by some clumsy defending, an embarrassing situation surely for a team that wrote the book on modern day defending. Goals from Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo meant the penalty conceded by Andrea Barzagli which was converted by Javier Hernandez was to be of little consequence.

A smash and grab 4-3 win against Japan secured the Azzurri’splace in the semi-finals but they failed to beat Brazil in a 4-2 defeat that had they won, would have seen them avoid Spain in the semis. Those who did predict a walkover similar to the one against them in the final of the Euro 2012 Championships were sorely mistaken, though, and the 2006 World Cup winners matched their 2010 counterparts every step of the way and had Mario Balotelli not been absent, it could well be a Brazil-Italy final at the Maracana on Sunday.

As it were, the Italians were to face a repeat of their exit at the 2008 Euros as the Spanish knocked them out on penalties.

Italy coach CesarePrandelli has said that this team is very much a work in progress and is in no way reflective of the SquadraAzzurrathat will take part in the World Cup next year.

Team News

Mario Balotelli has been sent home due to a strained thigh, but the absence of the AC Milan man aside, everybody is available.

Alberto Gilardino led the line against Spain and will be expected to do the same here.

Squad (from):Gianluigi Buffon (c), Christian Maggio, Giorgio Chiellini, DavideAstori, Mattia De Sciglio, Antonio Candreva, Alberto Aquilani, Claudio Marchisio, Sebastian Giovinco, Alberto Gilardino, Salvatore Sirigu, Federico Marchetti, Stephan El Shaarawy, Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi, Alessio Cerci, Riccardo Montolivo, Leonardo Bonucci, Ignazio Abate, Andrea Pirlo, EmanueleGiaccherini, Alessandro Diamanti

Probable Starting XI: Sirigu, Abate, Chiellini, Astori, De Sciglio, De Rossi, Diamanti, Marchisio, Pirlo (c), El Shaarawy, Gilardino

Prediction:

With the Uruguayan front line misfiring and the Italians without Balotelli, goals might be hard to come by. But this tournament has seen plenty of goals and this game looks to go the same way. The Europeans could nick it here but this game will be entertaining.

Uruguay 1-2 Italy

Venue:Maracana Stadium, Rio De Janerio

Referee: Björn Kuipers

Probable Lineups:

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar, Hulk, Neymar and Fred

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas, Pedro, Soldado, Iniesta

Five time World Cup winners, Brazil take on reigning World and European Champions Spain at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic football stadium, the Maracana  for the FIFA Confederations Cup final. Football pundits label tonight’s fixture as a ‘Dream Final’. The two teams have met just once in the last 23 years, in an international friendly match back in 1999, which ended goalless.

The Brazilians will have to display their best performance and improve their strike rate against La Roja for them to stand any chance of winning this tournament during Sunday’s mouthwatering Maracana showpiece. The Samba boys are unbeaten in 10 matches, winning their last five and have not lost a competitive game at home since 1975. Without a doubt, the Spanish team are likely to dominate possession. To counter this, Brazil will have to be clinical and deadly in front of goal as Big Phil will be expecting his boys to put on an impressive show against Del Bosque’s side.

We achieved our goal of getting to the final and giving the players a sense of unity and the fans an idea that we have a good team that can get to the final of the World Cup,”-Felipe Scholari

Felipe Scolari will opt for a 4-3-2-1 formation against ‘The Spanish Fury’. Brazil have a strong goalkeeper in Julio Cesar, and a solid rock defensive partnership in  David Luiz and Thiago Silva. The latter must overcome the defensive errors he committed in Brazil’s matches against Italy and Uruguay. Daniel Alves and Marcelo will operate down the flanks, rampaging forward to provide fine crosses into the box. Youngsters Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho and Oscar will be expected to anchor the midfield. Brazilian sensation Neymar will start alongside Hulk and Fred in the Brazilian attack. Oscar is likely to play a pivotal role in the Samba attack against the Spanish defence. Zenit striker Hulk will be handed a tough task of stopping the potential impact of Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba.

The full-backs are an integral and a vital part of Spain’s tactical game plan and Brazil will have to put a stop to it somehow. Carefully devised and planned changes can help the Brazilians outwit the Spaniards. Luis Gustavo, who has been playing the role of a defensive midfielder throughout the tournament, must stop the potential and combined attacks of Iniesta and Xavi, and try to disrupt and damage  the Spanish midfield.

“It is now the time to end the era of Spain”- Carlos Alberto Parreira, Technical Director of Brazil.

Coming to the Spanish team, Del Bosque will use his tactical master plan to suppress the Brazilian attack with his 4-3-3 formation.  Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas is in fine form. Spain are unbeaten in 29 competitive games (W24, D5) since their surprise 1-0 defeat to Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup. Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, who both are physically fit and strong in the tackle, will form the central  defensive partnership. Elsewhere, Jordi Alba and Arbeloa will operate as left back and right back respectively.

Xavi, Fabregas and Busquets will form the central midfield hub, forming Spain’s desirable passing and possession based tactical set-up. Cesc Fabregas and Soldado have shaken off their injuries (muscle) and could return to the starting line up. Real Madrid right back, Alvaro Arbeloa, will have to put a decisive stop to Neymar’s influence on the game, as he is a natural finisher and a goal creator. But Marcelo is just the right man to support Neymar at the back, and at the same time stop Arbeloa. In the Spanish attack, Pedro and Iniesta will start alongside Valencia’s Roberto Soldado.

Predicted Score: Brazil 3 – 2  Spain

Brazil v Uruguay: Semi Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

Luiz Felipe Scolari

Brazil have reached the final of the Confederations Cup for the third consecutive time. Some would say that they have exceeded expectations given the poor run up to the tournament but given the performances they have delivered in the tournament, anything less than a triumph will be an underachievement.

The tournament has been surrounded by protests that have threatened to sabotage the success of the event but the footballing success that the national team has achieved has allayed some of the nerves of the authorities in power. FIFA President Sepp Blatter sounded rather pleased with the organisation of the event and termed this year’s edition as the “best organised”.

It will be remembered as a popular tournament for the country if Brazil defeat Spain at the Maracana on Sunday. Spain were not particularly impressive against Italy in the semi-finals and that augurs well for the Selecao. They suffered against the tactical organisation of Italy and were the lesser team for most part of the match. On the other hand, Brazil have some flaws of their own that they need to weed out of their system. Luiz Felipe Scolari has fostered some great team spirit in this side and that reflects on the pitch. It was one of the key features of their 2002 world cup win and Scolari has tried to replicate that.

Here is a list of five reasons why Brazil will win the tournament by defeating Spain on Sunday:

5. Felipe Scolari 

It was clear that Cesare Prandelli won the tactical battle against Del Bosque in the semi-final and if not for some wasteful shooting in front of the goal, matters could have been very different. Del Bosque has already begun playing some mind games as he tipped Brazil to be the favorites ahead of the clash. He said, “Brazil are the favourites. They have five World Cups, three Confederations Cups; we’re going to be facing them at the Maracana and we’re excited to do so.” Bosque will make some corrections to his team for the match on Sunday especially guarding against the threat Brazil will pose on the flanks. Scolari would have made his own notes on Spain’s performance in the game against Italy. He is likely to throw a heavy challenge to the World Champions.

4. Fatigue

Spain played 120 minutes of exhausting football against Italy and will get one day less to rehabilitate as compared to Brazil. Spain’s midfield was ineffective against Italy in the first 90 minutes and one fears that that might be the case at the Maracana. Spain are usually very patient while they build their offence against rigid opponents but they broke down too easily against Italy. They were caught on the counter many times and Mario Balotelli’s absence hurt Italy.

3. Goals

Brazil’s forwards have worn their scoring boots throughout the tournament. They have opened the scoring early in most of their games and another such performance against Spain will tilt the game in their favour. On the other hand, the longer the game is goalless the better it gets for Spain. They held their nerve against Netherlands in the World Cup final and will be backing themselves to do the same against the Selecao.

Also, Brazil striker Fred has silenced his critics with three goals in the last two matches. With their strikers in form, Brazil will only need half a chance to spring a rude surprise for the world champions.

2. The Full-Backs

Italy caught Spain on the flanks and Brazil will be looking to do the same. Del Bosque highlighted that threat ahead of the game, saying:  “Dani Alves and Marcelo are great. They’re able to influence a game.”

Marcelo and Dani Alves know every bit of Spanish football and they will execute Scolari’s plans to perfection. They can provide that extra bit of pace on the wing. Jordi Alba has been consistent in this tournament but he had a hard time against Italy, whereas Arbelao has been suspect throughout the competition. It is possible that the battle is won and lost in this mini-battle.

1. Neymar

Team GB v Brazil - International Friendly

Neymar’s performance will be crucial for Brazil to win the Confederations Cup against Spain

The poster boy of Brazilian football will play a crucial part in this game. He has driven the Selecao in this competition with his goal-scoring ability and flair when playing in the middle of the pitch. In many ways, he has lifted the side to greater heights with his inspirational displays, and he would be the biggest reason why Brazil can win this match. Most of his critics who undermined his performances against Japan and Mexico argued that his real test would come at the business end of the competition against high-quality oppositions. Italy and Uruguay tried their best to quell the threat that he poses but he was still able to make match winning contributions in those games. He can truly monopolize the spotlight in the final.

After brushing aside the group stage fixtures, the world champions will now set their eyes on the next two games as they try to win the only trophy that they have not bagged so far. Spain have not put a foot wrong in this tournament so far, conceding a single goal against Uruguay, which was an individual piece of brilliance from a dead ball situation.

They have hogged all the possession in the games they have played and have eventually dismantled the rigid defences with their patient penetration. The only area for concern is perhaps choosing a no. 9 but they have goals aplenty as Fernando Torres emerged as a potent option with his diving header against Nigeria, coming off the bench.

The semi-final will be a rematch of the Euro 2012 final in which Italy were defeated 4-0 by eventual champions Spain. Interestingly, the U-21 teams of both the nations competed in the final of the European Championships recently.

Italy’s campaign got off to a promising start against Mexico but the Azzurri were handed a tough fight by the Blue Samurai. They were fortunate to come out on the winning side of that match as they would eventually be outplayed by the Brazilian side in the last group fixture.

Italy have a whole host of injuries which have endangered their campaign as star striker Mario Balotelli has been ruled out of the match. Andrea Pirlo is likely to return to the midfield along with Daniele De Rossi, who served a suspension against Brazil after collecting two yellow cards.

Here is a list of five players who will make a difference to the eventual result of the match:

Italy v Brazil: Group A - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

5. Emanuele Giaccherini

The Juventus player scored a stunning goal from a Mario Balotelli pass against Brazil after coming off the bench. He was a nuisance in that game as the usually solid Thiago Silva failed to close him down on many occasions. He was Italy’s greatest threat against Japan as well, as he worked hard to get the ball and made something of it whenever he got it.

With Balotelli ruled out of the match, a part of the midfield will have to take up some goal-scoring responsibility. He should be a part of Cesare Prandelli’s plans against Spain as his pace can give the Spanish defence some trouble.

Nigeria v Spain: Group B - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

4. Fernando Torres

The Spaniard scored a wonderful diving header against Nigeria coming off the bench. It must have been his first touch in the game but it was enough to make a difference as Spain capped the match in spite of Nigeria’s determined defence.

Roberto Soldado lost a vital opportunity of pushing Villa and Torres out of contention for the no. 9 spot but now Torres looks to be the favourite to start against Italy. The striker seems to have put his sorry form behind him and looks a rejuvenated player. He is the highest scorer in the tournament so far and another few good performances might help Spain as well as his club career.

Nigeria v Spain: Group B - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

3. Jordi Alba

The full-back scored two goals against Nigeria in yet another stellar display for La Roja. His pace on the wing makes him dangerous player in offense while he remains solid in defence. He has really flowered in the national side at a young age and will continue to be a long term fixture in this side.

His game adds an additional dimension to Spain’s tiki-taka football. He will have to make sure he focuses on his defensive duties against Italy, who boast a bit of pace on the wing. Apart from that, his ability to get goals always comes in handy.

Mexico v Italy: Group A - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

2. Andrea Pirlo

Another Juventus player on the list, Pirlo has had a bitter-sweet tournament so far. He had to sit out of the game against Brazil due to an injury and was out of sorts against Japan. However, he had begun the tournament on a real high celebrating his century of appearances with a brilliant free-kick.

There is still some doubt regarding his participation for the match against Spain but he will make his best effort to make the playing XI. If he is unable to make the cut, Daniel De Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo will have to do his share of work but Italy’s chances in the match will dip considerably.

Nigeria v Spain: Group B - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

1. Andres Iniesta

The ever so reliable midfielder from Barcelona has put up an excellent show at the Confederations Cup as Spain look determined to win it. He dictates the pace of the game for Spain with his visionary passing.

His movement on and off the ball allows him to participate in every constructive move that Spain make. He will be pulling the strings against Italy and the Azzurri will have to disrupt his distribution if they intend to put up a competitive performance against the world champions.

The remaining formalities of the group stage have been dispensed as we now head into the business end of the Confederations Cup 2013. There have been a few exciting clashes so far and many breathtaking goals, but the real contests will be on display in the semifinals as Brazil gear up to face Uruguay at Belo Horizonte. The hosts were flawless in the group stages, winning each of their three games and conceding only two goals to Italy. They were not particularly bright prior to this competition but have looked a cohesive unit here, perhaps due to the energy they derive from the home crowd.

Uruguay, on the other hand, have had a tougher campaign as they were beaten first up by the World Champions Spain. They were starved of possession and apart from the Luis Suarez free-kick, had nothing to take back from that game. They pulled themselves together against Nigeria, deriving motivation from the inspirational Diego Forlan but concerns still remain.

Edinson Cavani has failed to impress in his appearance for La Celeste whereas Luis Suarez, though still at his dangerous best in the attacking-third, is losing possession in critical areas. Uruguay were becoming a force in International football at one stage, making it to the semifinals in 2010 WC but they have gone downhill since. Oscar Tabarez will be hoping that his ageing side can pull through a good performance against the Selecao.

Here is a list of the top five players who can make a difference to the result of the all important semi-final:

5. Fred

Fred

The forward was on song against the Italians in the final group fixture and ended the match with a brace. He had a number of opportunities in the game and he gave his 100% to each one of them. A return of two goals is always going to be significant but more than that, it was his involvement in the game that was a positive. He had tended to drift out a little in the previous games as the defenders were able to keep him quiet. His last goal was a gift, a predator’s goal, but he thoroughly deserved the spoils of the night. He will have a key role to play against La Celeste and goals in the bag will give him confidence.

4. Diego Forlan

Diego Forlan

The veteran celebrated his 100th appearance for Uruguay with a crucial goal against Nigeria. He has been facing some harsh criticism along with manager Oscar Tabarez but he proved his mettle once again. Even in the game against Spain, which was largely a one-sided affair, Uruguay looked in better shape once he was brought on to the park. His energy and commitment on the pitch means that a lot more is being created offensively. He will probably start as a part of the three man forward string but the fluidity of the arrangement allows him to step back and create for the two strikers.

3. Oscar

Oscar

The Chelsea midfielder has had a mixed-bag at this tournament so far. He was in his elements in the first game against Japan but got lost a little against Mexico. The inconsistency is a cause of worry for Luiz Felipe Scolari but he will continue to invest his faith in the young man who is trying to step into the big shoes of the play-maker. He was sloppy on the ball against Italy a number of times, losing possession even as he was trying to initiate a forward move but picked up his game in the second half by providing the imaginative spark that Brazil needed. He needs to be at his best in the next two games for Brazil to have a chance of lifting the Cup.

2. Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

The Liverpool striker remains Uruguay’s best bet to spring a surprise against Brazil. He came on late and casually put in two goals against Tahiti and even though it does not say much, since it was Tahiti after all, it does say a bit about his determination and hunger. He will be disappointed with his performance in the tournament so far as he is a player who expects a great deal from himself. The best of oppositions usually bring out the best and the worst out of him. He can either make some magic in the final third of the pitch with his skilful dribbling and one-on-one skill or he can throw an antic, disturbing the balance of the game. Definitely a man to watch out for.

1. Neymar

Neymar

The former Santos striker has been the revelation of this tournament. He has lived up to the expectations so far. After two stunning volleys and an astonishing assist, he continued the exhibition of his diverse skills with a remarkable free-kick against Italy. He was substituted soon after as Scolari tried to save his big weapon for the semifinals. He will be running the channels and threatening with his lightning quick pace. It is difficult to foresee how Uruguay’s ageing legs will be able to cope with his threat.

Nigeria v Spain: Group B - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

Reigning world and European champions Spain overcame a plucky Nigeria side in their third and final group game to keep a 100 per cent record, going into their semifinal clash with Italy in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. La Roja won against the Africans 3-0, with Jordi Alba netting twice, and Fernando Torres continuing his rich vein of form in front of goal with his fifth goal of the tournament.

However, the Chelsea man and David Villa were left out for Roberto Soldado in Spain’s starting lineup, while Victor Valdes kept in goal ahead of Pepe Reina and Iker Casillas. A host of changes were made throughout the side, as first-team regulars returned, leaving out most of the players who were a part of Spain’s romping of Tahiti.

Valdes’ club teammate Alba broke the parity early in the game, as the Barcelona leftback played his way past a swarm of Nigeria defenders before sliding the ball into the net in the third minute.

However, Nigeria managed to pass a multitude of chances thereafter, starting with John Obi Mikel, who almost got his second in two games, only for his shot to be deflected by Gerard Pique over the post.

Joseph Akpala headed straight at Valdes from Efe Ambrose’s cross, while Jospeh Ideye could have done better with an Ambrose cutback seven minutes before half-time.

Ideye failed to finish on 52 minutes after Valdes fumbled Ahmed Musaab’s cross, and Gambo mishit a volley wide after being played in by the dangerous Musaab, the team’s best chance of the game.

Torres scored his goal from a diving header in the second half off Pedro’s cross, while Alba found himself splitting the offside trap from a deep David Villa freekick before rounding the keeper and slotting the ball home.

Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi said after the game that while the 90 minutes were a “learning curve against a very good team, a three-goal victory did not reflect the game.”

Del Bosque said: “It was a difficult match. [Nigeria] were excellent opponents who really challenged for the ball. Though we finally won, both teams should have scored more goals.”

Teams:

Nigeria: Enyeama, Oboabona, Echiejile, Ambrose, Omeruo, Mikel, Ogude, Mba, Musa, Ideye, Akpala…subs: Ogu, Egwueke, Gambo

Spain: Valdes, Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Fabregas, Soldado..subs: Villa, Torres, Silva

Final Scoreline:

Spain 3 – 0 Nigeria