As Spain prepares for an onslaught against Tahiti on Thursday that some feel might be the mismatch of the century, Uruguay and Spain prepare to battle it out with dreams toward the semifinal of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Uruguay dropped their first match to Spain, 2-1, while Nigeria took home a 6-1 win over Tahiti the same day, exposing the idea that the Minnows are going to be tough to watch over the next few days when it comes to stopping the opponent from getting in goal-scoring position.
Nigeria and Spain sit atop the Group B table right now, but fortunes can flip big-time on Thursday with a Uruguayan win—La Celeste will have a chance to do just that in the second match of the day on Thursday (via Fox Soccer Trax):
Tomorrow, CONFED CUP rolls on. We have SPAIN-TAHITI from Rio and NIGERIA-URUGUAY in Salvador. Coverage starts here at 2 ET.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) June 19, 2013
While Spain has the luxury and comfort of already playing the toughest team on their schedule, Uruguay and Nigeria are very much playing for a chance to reach the next round of this tournament. As noted by ESPN's Paul Carr, Nigeria holds a slight edge right now because they are working from the top of the table:
SPI odds to advance from #ConfedCup Group B: Spain 99.9%, Nigeria 71.2%, Uruguay 28.9%, Tahiti 0.00%.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 17, 2013
The outcome of this match will either eliminate Uruguay for good or put both teams in a position of must-win matches in their final time out in Group B play, so needless to say, everything is going to be on the line in this one.
With the match on the horizon, here are three players to watch for both squads.
Who: Uruguay vs. Nigeria
What: 2013 Confederations Cup Group B
When: Thursday, June 20, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Estadio Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil
Group B Standings (as of 6/19/13)
Players to Watch
Edinson Cavani, Uruguay
Everyone knows about Uruguayan striker and Liverpool star Luis Suarez, and after his goal in the 88th minute against Spain in his team's opening match, there's no doubt he's the star that Oscar Tabarez will count on the most if Uruguay is to keep hope alive for a semifinal bid.
But it's Cavani who needs to find a way to help his counterpart if Uruguay wants to avoid an embarrassing disappointment of 0-2 at the Confederations Cup.
There weren't many Uruguay players who stepped up to the plate against Spain (six total shots, 29 percent possession), but Cavani is one who can't afford to slack off against a Super Eagles squad that has not lost in any of their last 18 matches.
The Napoli striker had 29 goals in 33 Serie A matches last year, but that means nothing at the Confederations Cup—Nigeria is a tough squad to peg because we haven't really seen them against top competition, but the promise is there.
If the fact that La Celeste needs Cavani to be dialed in against the Nigerian attack isn't enough, his place in the match will certainly intrigue Premier League and La Liga fans alike, as his affections are being wooed by both leagues.
Fox Soccer noted on Wednesday that Real Madrid might be in his future very soon:
Edinson Cavani's flirt with Real Madrid growing stronger. http://t.co/1pe5x2Ef4r— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 19, 2013
From his place in the Uruguayan attack to a potential move to a bigger league and a bigger role in the world star picture, Cavani is a guy you need to watch closely in this decisive Group B match.
Nnamdi Oduamadi, Nigeria
The AC Milan-owned striker had a hat-trick against the Minnows in the opening match of the tournament, but he'll be hard-pressed to find that kind of success against Uruguay on Thursday.
Here's one of his three goals against Tahiti, courtesy of AC Milan News on Twitter:
If Oduamadi has a third of his Tahiti success against La Celeste, then there's a good chance his team will be in the match against Uruguay in the late stages of the second half.
As noted by Kickoff.com, Oduamadi's hat-trick earned him an immediate recall to his parent club following the impressive display of goal-scoring prowess against Tahiti, and it's a move that will really face scrutiny if he is a no-show against Uruguay.
The Super Eagles need strikers to show up to beat big clubs like this, and this is a huge chance for both the country and this young man personally to collectively establish that the later Group B match against Spain isn't just for show.
And that Uruguay is in trouble.
Diego Forlan, Uruguay
Forlan was the most decorated scorer in the history of the Uruguayan national team until the match against Spain, when Suarez's 33rd career international goal earned him a tie with Forlan atop that list.
Carr had the tweet as it happened:
33rd int'l goal for Luis Suárez, tying Diego Forlán for most in Uruguay history. #ConfedCup— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 16, 2013
It was fitting that Forlan was a sub for the match that his record was officially demolished, but he has a chance to capture it back with a strong game against Nigeria.
Expected to be in the starting XI, Forlan moving back to the field at the start will signal the move from a four-defender lineup to one with three, as Oscar Tabarez will put a higher emphasis on the attack against the Super Eagles than he did against Spain.
Who wins the match?
After mustering up only six shots in the 2-1 loss, it's clear that Uruguay needs to do something different in terms of goal-scoring and pure possession football. Forlan's experience and veteran presence should help both when he's on the pitch, and that automatically makes him a player to watch as the decision to go light in the back line will be magnified.
Both squads have talented countrymen that will be on display for all to see, and there's little doubt we'll have more than just three to talk about by match's end. For now, though, expect these three stars to have a huge stake in what the Group B table looks like on Thursday night.
Follow Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.