Nigeria vs. Spain: La Roja Enter Semifinals as Clear Favorite

Tim KeeneyContributor IJune 23, 2013

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23:  Jordi Alba of Spain celebrates as he scores their first goal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group B match between Nigeria and Spain at Castelao on June 23, 2013 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Coming off a 10-0 win over Tahiti and all but assured of a spot in the Confederations Cup semifinals, many wondered how strong Spain would really look in its match with Nigeria on Sunday. 

Three minutes after the opening whistle, those questions were answered in resounding fashion. 

Left-back Jordi Alba received a pass while streaking down the side and proceeded to weave his way through just about half of the Nigerian defense towards the goal. El Enano got a little lucky to keep the ball inside the box, but he displayed brilliant dribbling control and a calm, clinical finish to put Spain ahead after just 180 seconds:

Again, that's Spain's left-back. 

Although Alba can be inconsistent defensively, he is undoubtedly one of the best left-backs in the world going forward—two goals (he scored again in the 88th minute), a 93 percent successful passing rate on 90 touches, via WhoScored and a 9.62 match rating all strengthen that point pretty well. 

Therein is part of what makes Spain so dangerous. 

It's seemingly an endless list of candidates who can beat you on any given night. 

Against Uruguay, it was Roberto Soldado and Pedro. Against Tahiti, it was pretty much everyone, but Fernando Torres and David Villa were especially excellent. On Sunday, it was Alba.

Spain is, of course, more known for its absolutely beautiful ability to control possession and knock the ball around with ease in the midfield than for its mastery in the final third. 

It wasn't quite the same record-setting performance they put on display against Uruguay, but La Roja controlled a ridiculous 64 percent of the possession on Sunday, according to WhoScored.

Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets combined to complete 313 passes at better than 95 percent, while Nigeria's entire team completed just 416. 

Spain's ability to toy with opponents like that is something you have to witness to believe, and it is very clearly the No. 1 strength to its game. But when La Roja are getting this kind of finishing in the final third from a variety of options, they are essentially impossible to beat. 

Italy and Brazil (very likely) will soon learn that. 


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