This was always going to be the key match in group B of the 2013 Confederations Cup, as the results against the other two teams are almost known from the start. Nigeria did have a smooth opening to the tournament, but playing Uruguay, who don’t have a choice but to win, is going to be very different than in their opener.
Even though they lost to Spain “only” 1-2, Uruguay put in a very disappointing performance against the World champions, hardly finding themselves in possession for too long except for the final 15 minutes, when things started opening up a little bit on the pitch.
Their struggles in creating chances and proving to be a formidable attacking threat is causing Oscar Tabarez to consider making some changes in the lineup, mostly introducing Diego Forlan to the starting XI, and playing with the three striker formation Uruguay used in the Copa America, with Forlan hanging a bit behind Cavani and Suarez.
Nigeria haven’t lost a match since May 2012, making it 18 undefeated games for them. They were beaten 1-0 by Peru on that day, and have since gone on to win the African Cup of Nations, with Keshi doing a fantastic job by doing some overhauling in the Nigerian squad, basing it on local talent instead of the slightly pampered stars who play all across the European football leagues.
It means his squad might not be as talented as it can be, but it’s unified more than it has been in the past, and much better setup to succeed outside of Africa as well. There will be some changes in his side considering the more serious nature of their opponents in this match, but playing for a draw might be dangerous, considering how goal difference might come into effect if both they and Uruguay finish with 4 points, and it all comes down to how much they lost to Spain and by how much they beat Tahiti.
This will be the first time both sides play against each other. Uruguay haven’t played against an African side since August 2010, beating Angola 2-0 in Lisbon. Prior to that came their memorable penalty-kick victory over Ghana in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Predictions – Uruguay haven’t been playing well for a very long time, and Nigeria are going to present a very difficult challenge, with the ability to close down the midfield, which will force Uruguay to play the long ball once more. The strikers quality for Uruguay is unrivaled at pretty much any team in the world, but this one feels like a draw.