Spain presents Nigeria with mission improbable

Updated 23 June 2013
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Spain presents Nigeria with mission improbable

FORTALEZA, Brazil: Buoyed by their record-breaking 10-0 rout of Tahiti at the Confederations Cup, Spain approach today’s final Group B fixture against Nigeria needing just a point to secure a place in the semifinals.
Thursday’s thrashing of the Pacific islanders made Spain the first team to win a game by a 10-goal margin at the finals of a FIFA tournament, and only the second to score 10 after Hungary’s 10-1 thrashing of El Salvador at the 1982 World Cup.
Fernando Torres scored four goals, and David Villa three, but perhaps the most pleasing aspect for coach Vicente del Bosque was the fact he was able to rest almost his entire first-choice starting XI.
Of the team that began the opening 2-1 win over Uruguay, only center back Sergio Ramos kept his place, and the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas could all return against Nigeria.
Del Bosque’s shrewd squad management was a key feature of Spain’s successes at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and midfielder David Silva says rotation is something the players fully accept.
“We’re always ready to step up when we get the chance,” said the Manchester City midfielder, who scored twice in the Tahiti romp.
Spain’s strong start to the tournament means they go into Sunday’s match at Fortaleza’s Estadio Castelao within touching distance of the last four.
Although they require a point to make sure of a semi-final place, they would need to lose to Nigeria by at least four goals to stand any chance of being overhauled.
The situation is rather more taxing for Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria, who were beaten 2-1 by Uruguay in Salvador on Thursday and enter Sunday’s game level on points with the South American champions.
If Uruguay, as expected, record a handsome win over Tahiti, Nigeria will only be able to reach the last four with a victory over the world and European champions, but coach Keshi says he has not given up hope.
“Everything is achievable,” he said.
“It depends how much desire you have in you, how much you want it, and how much luck you’ve got on your side. I can’t question the boys’ commitment or loyalty.” Keshi’s plans for the game have been complicated by an injury to AC Milan forward Nnamdi Oduamadi, scorer of a hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Tahiti, who had to come off against Uruguay with an apparent ankle injury.
Del Bosque is expected to recall his leading lights, but Torres and Villa will each hope they have done enough to be selected ahead of Valencia striker Roberto Soldado.
The two sides have met before just once, in a group game at the 1998 World Cup in France, when Nigeria, then Olympic champions, claimed a 3-2 win that sowed the seeds of the Spaniards’ group-phase elimination.
It remains the only time Spain have lost to African opposition, but the balance of power in international football has tilted sharply since then.
While Nigeria saw an 18-game unbeaten run come to an end against Uruguay, Spain have not lost at a tournament since a shock defeat by Switzerland in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Spain arrived in Fortaleza on Brazil’s northeastern coast on Friday afternoon, with Fabregas and Juan Mata each announcing the squad’s arrival by posting videos of the view from the team’s beachfront hotel on the Instagram file-sharing website.


Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Updated 56 min 25 sec ago
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Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.