Spain beat a competitive Nigeria side and Uruguay thumped Tahiti to round out the group stage schedule and set up a pair of tasty midweek semifinals.
Nigeria 0-3 Spain (3’ 88’ Jordi Alba; 62’ Torres)
A pair of Jordi Alba goals bookended a 3-0 win for Spain over African champions Nigeria in Fortaleza. Fernando Torres also got on the scoresheet when his powerful header midway through the second half extended his tournament-leading tally to five.
It took just three minutes for the Barcelona left-back to open the scoring—accepting a pass from Andres Iniesta before losing four opponents in a slalom run through the defense that concluded with a confident finish past goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
But Nigeria were no pushovers and quickly got a foot-hold in the match, coming close to scoring on several occasions through the likes of Joseph Akpala, Sunday Mba and Ahmed Musa. And after the restart they continued to give the world and European champions no shortage of problems—their hopes of getting a result only being snuffed out when Torres headed Pedro’s cross into goal just after the hour-mark.
From there it was always going to be a victory for Spain, and Jordi Alba rounded out the scoring with two minutes left on the clock when David Villa’s pass found his Barcelona teammate having fooled the offside trap.
Uruguay 8-0 Tahiti (2’ 24’ 45+1’ 67’ Hernandez; 27’ Perez; 61’ Lodeiro; 82’ 90’ Suarez)
Abel Hernandez marked his first start of the Confederations Cup with a quad and Luiz Suarez bagged a brace as Uruguay trounced Tahiti 8-0 in Recife.
Hernandez, who plays his club football at Palermo, found the back of the net after just two minutes when he nodded Andres Scotti’s ball past Tahiti goalkeeper Gilbert Meriel.
There would be two more goals for the 22-year-old inside the first half, as well as a strike from Diego Perez, as Uruguay went back down the tunnel with a 4-0 lead, and while Tahiti did well to limit the South American champions’ chances in the early exchanges after the restart Nicolas Lodeiro extended his side’s advantage to five just after the hour-mark.
Walter Gargano did the legwork on the goal as he drove into the box from the left, and when his dangerous ball made its way to the far post Lodeiro was there to tap it past Meriel.
Suarez was introduced with 20 minutes to play but still found time to score twice, and Hernandez found the back of the net a fourth time when he converted from the spot in the 67th minute following Steevy Chong Hue’s foul on Matias Aguirregaray.
We were up against very good opponents and, what’s more, the heat was incredible. Fortunately, the lead we opened up in the second half put is in a more comfortable situation and meant we could conserve our efforts a bit...We’re fortunate enough to have very technically gifted players who can help us conserve energy in these kinds of situations. Now’s the time to get some rest and then tomorrow we’ll start thinking about Italy. –Spain manager Vicente del Bosque (FIFA.com)
Player of the day
Jordi Alba. He is the ideal attacking full-back and now has four international goals in 20 appearances for Spain. His first of the day against Nigeria was a splendid solo effort that saw him swerve through the box before applying a striker’s finish past the ‘keeper; his second demonstrated the smarts of a player who knows when and where to make a run. He’ll be one of his side’s more important attacking options against Italy in the semifinals.
Wednesday’s semifinal will be an all-South American affair as Brazil entertain Uruguay at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte.
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari should have Paulinho (ankle) back for the match, although Hernanes’ performance against Italy will have given him reason to pause.
On the other side of the ball Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez will have captain Diego Lugano back after the defender served a one-match ban, although Andres Scotti is suspended after being sent off against Tahiti.
Projected Brazil XI: J.Cesar; D.Alves, T.Silva. D.Luiz, Marcelo; L.Gustavo, Hernanes; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred
Projected Uruguay XI: Muslera; Godin, Lugano, Caceres; M.Pereira, Arevalo, Gonzalez, Rodriguez; Forlan; Suarez, Cavani
Thursday’s semifinal between Spain and Italy in Fortaleza is a rematch of last summer’s Euro 2012 final.
Spain were 4-0 winners on that occasion and coming into the rematch head coach Vicente del Bosque has no injury or suspension worries and will be able to name his preferred lineup against the Azzurri. Given Roberto Soldado’s troublesome finishing against Nigeria it’s likely Fernando Torres will start in attack.
Italy manager Cesare Prandelli learned on Sunday that he will have to make do without striker Mario Balotelli against Spain. The AC Milan forward will be sidelined with a thigh injury, with Alberto Gilardino likely replacing him.
Prandelli will, however, welcome Daniele de Rossi back into his first XI after the Roma hardman served a one-game suspension against Brazil. Andrea Pirlo (muscle) should also be fit to play from the start.
Ignazio Abate has returned to Italy after suffering a serious shoulder injury against Brazil.
Projected Spain XI: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Jordi Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Torres, Fabregas
Projected Italy XI: Buffon; Maggio, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Sciglio; De Rossi, Pirlo, Aquilani; Giaccherini, Marchisio; Gilardino