Nigeria vs. Spain: 5 Things We Learned
So Spain advance to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, 2013 edition.
It was never really in doubt, was it?
In fact, this game could've been a whole lot different if the Nigerians had brought their A game to the party. Vicente Del Bosque looked unusually animated at times, and with good reason. With Italy on the horizon, for La Roja, there are certain issues to address.
Let's take a look at five things we learnt during this match.
Having only lost a solitary game since May 2012—the Confederations Cup defeat to Uruguay—Nigeria came into the match with some pedigree.
In Musa they had one of the outstanding performers of the match, although his finishing was woeful.
In the first half particularly the attacking threat from the Super Eagles was constant, despite the early goal and pressure from the Spaniards. Numerous goalscoring chances were created, and only Nigerian profligacy saw Victor Valdes' goal untroubled.
Spain simply cannot afford to allow the Italians such time and space.
Torres Thriving on Good Service
The Fernando Torres that we see for Spain is as far removed from the Chelsea version as could possibly be. Witness the movement, desire and bravery to stoop low and score a fabulous diving header with his first touch.
Devoid of confidence in a system that was often alien to him at Chelsea, the striker is an altogether different proposition when on international duty.
Torres is not a target man in the traditional sense, but like all good strikers he thrives on service. He perhaps could and should've added further to his tally, but it's unlikely there will be too many complaints about his contribution.
It's easy to see why it's felt a move to Barcelona—who had eight members of staff in the starting XI this evening—might be just the tonic Torres needs to revitalise a fading club career.
Spain Allowed Too Many Crosses into the Box
It's a fairly obvious statement to make. Stop balls into the box and you often render the opposition attack impotent.
Yet it's never quite as simple as it sounds—as Spain found out time and again this evening.
The Nigerians garnered most success from their raids down the right side of the pitch, taking advantage of Jordi Alba's attacking industry.
Often switching to a tight and centrally based back three with Sergio Busquets as the lynchpin, Spain therefore had particular difficulty in sealing off the wide areas by not spreading themselves adequately across the width of the pitch.
Invariably, if one of either Sergio Ramos or Gerard Pique went to patrol the flanks, the panic that ensued if a tackle was missed and the ball found a trajectory into the central areas was palpable.
Cesare Prandelli might well consider some old-fashioned wing play as the route to success for his Italian team in the semifinal.
John Obi Mikel a Revelation as a More Attack-Minded Midfielder
John Obi Mikel is a defensive midfielder by trade, yet arguably he was anything but in tonight's game.
He was more dynamic in possession of the ball and got forward at every opportunity.
With Sergio Busquets sitting very deep in the centre of the Spanish defence rather than his usual more advanced defensive midfield role, this invited more Nigerian pressure through the central areas.
It allowed Mikel free reign to push much higher up the pitch than usual. It was often his prompting, along with Musa, that saw the Nigerians progress their attacking intent.
His natural defensive qualities were still in evidence. Despite finishing on the losing side, it was a sparkling individual performance from the player.
Spanish Positional Changes
There were a number of positional and formational switches throughout the match from the Spanish tonight, although at times some of their choices left them exposed.
At various points La Roja would alternate between a 3-5-2 and a 3-4-3 setup.
There were even a couple of moments in the game when a forward press saw just two Spanish players left back in an ambitious 2-4-4 attacking formation.
Indeed, it was the use of the latter where Spain found themselves almost caught out from their own corner in the 25th minute. Roberto Soldado should've scored, and from the resulting clearance and breakaway Spain were left horribly understaffed in defence.
Players also switched positions at will, with Jordi Alba turning up in the centre forward position for the third goal as a prime example.
Each Spanish player seems to know his role perfectly, and it is perhaps this ingredient that is the hallmark of continued success for Vicente Del Bosque's men.