Spain the ones doing the soaring as Super Eagles have to fly home early
Alba scores twice as World Champions earn Confederations Cup semi-final place
Spain’s Fernando Torres, right, scores his side’s second.
World champions Spain survived a first-half pounding by Nigeria before securing their place Confederations Cup semi-finals with a 3-0 win over the African champions, who were eliminated yesterday.
A superb individual goal from Jordi Alba, one of eight Barcelona players in the starting lineup, put Spain ahead after three minutes before Fernando Torres took his tournament tally to five with a 62nd minute diving header, three minutes after replacing Roberto Soldado.
Spain were given a good examination by hard-running Nigeria for most of the first half, but poor finishing cost the Super Eagles dearly. Alba rounded off Spain’s win with his second goal in the 88th minute.
Spain took almost total control after the restart and will face Italy, who they beat 4-0 in last year’s Euro 2012 final, in Thursday’s semi-final in Fortaleza after completing Group B with a maximum nine points.
“Nigeria have a very dynamic style of playing and they were really going for the win in the first half but we had a bit more control in the second period,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said.
“The humidity here is incredible but I think we both have very technical players who can control the game and that meant at times we were able to conserve energy.”
Alba slalomed his way past four opponents and got a lucky deflection off the shin of defender Kenneth Omeruo before firing from eight metres for a wonderful goal in the third minute.
The 19-year-old Omeruo, the youngest member of the Nigerian squad, had even worse luck eight minutes later when he was injured defending and carried off on a stretcher.
Chances regularly fell to both sides in an exciting end-to-end game, with John Obi Mikel, Joseph Akpala and Brown Ideye all going close for Nigeria, who continually pounded forwards.
At the other, Soldado had two good chances to increase Spain’s advantage before the break but was twice thwarted by Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Cesc Fabregas then held his head in disbelief when he strode on to a cross from Soldado but, with only Enyeama to beat, shot against the post with the rebound flying straight into the goalkeeper’s grasp.
It was a different story after half-time with Spain midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi keeping possession for long periods.
One of those moves produced a sublime second goal for Torres, who got away from marker Godfrey Oboabona to head in David Silva’s perfect cross.
Spain completed their win went a quick free kick from deep inside their own half sent Alba galloping clear of the Nigeria defence and he calmly slipped past Enyeama to score into an empty net.