For only the second time in history, Spain will meet Nigeria in an international match, hoping that the confederations cup version of the rivalry goes better than their World Cup encounter from 15 years ago.
Sunday Oliseh scored a memorable goal that gave Nigeria a historic 3-2 win over Spain, keeping the La Roja from qualifying to the second round of the 1998 World Cup, while Nigeria advanced to get beaten by Denmark. Since then, it’s been mostly disappointments for Nigeria at every turn, until this year, winning the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 19 years.
Spain? They need no introduction, winning every possible title (major ones, at least) over the last five years, and having no problems early on in the Confederations Cup group stage, beating Uruguay 2-1 and sinking Tahiti with a 10-0 win.
Things can still get complicated in this group stage, because there’s no chance Uruguay don’t beat Tahiti, also having the advantage of playing last, knowing what result they need to get. Nigeria have to beat Spain in order to stay alive in the competition and hope for a low-scoring win for Uruguay, with goal difference and goals scored in the group being the tie breakers before head-to-head record.
And yet, it seems very unlikely that Spain, regardless of the lineup they use, will lost this match. They only need a draw to finish first in the group, and even if they play the same lineup they used against Tahiti, with only Sergio Ramos remaining from the original, stronger lineup, they should be huge favorites.
For Nigeria, as Stephen Keshi placed it, it’s about desire, and nothing else. He knows who is the more talented team, and unless his players leave it all on the pitch in Fortaleza, they have no chance of achieving the almost-impossible.
What is something to watch for, especially for Spain, are the yellow cards, with Alvaro Arbeloa, anti Cazorla and Gerard Pique one booking away from missing the semifinal.
Predictions – Nigeria were part of an entertaining clash with Uruguay, but their defense isn’t good enough to sustain pressure for a long time, and there is no way their midfield can keep up with Spain’s passing game, unless they press all over the pitch from the first moment, which can’t last for very long. Spain win, and qualify with a perfect record.