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.


Manchester United inflict more semifinal misery on sorry Spurs

Updated 21 April 2018
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Manchester United inflict more semifinal misery on sorry Spurs

  • Manchester United come from behind to make FA Cup final.
  • Mauricio Pochettino yet to win a trophy as manager.

A third cup final with Manchester United for Jose Mourinho. More FA Cup semifinal misery for Tottenham.
While Mauricio Pochettino wins admiration for his style of football, the manager has yet to actually win a trophy in management.
A 2-1 collapse to United at Wembley Stadium on Saturday left Tottenham reeling from an eighth successive loss in the FA Cup semifinals.
Pochettino is responsible for two of the setbacks, having also fallen short against Chelsea last season.
At the stadium where Tottenham have been playing their home matches this season, Dele Alli's goal gave the 1991 FA Cup winners hope of turning around their miserable record in world football's oldest knockout competition.
But Alexis Sanchez leveled in the 24th minute and Ander Herrera struck the winner in the second half. It ensured Mourinho, who won the League Cup and Europa League in his first season at United, has a chance to also end this campaign with silverware against Chelsea or Southampton in the FA Cup final.
"We're getting used to being in finals," Herrera said. "This club is all about titles and finals."
While Mourinho has fallen short in the English Premier League behind newly crowned champion Manchester City, United are second and on course for their highest finish since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Tottenham would settle with holding onto fourth place to secure a third season in a row in the Champions League.
Liverpool missed a chance to considerably stretch its advantage over Tottenham in one of Saturday's two league games. Juergen Klopp's side threw away a two-goal lead to draw with last-place West Bromwich Albion 2-2 and move only three points ahead of Tottenham.
Chelsea, who plays Southampton in the other FA Cup semifinal on Sunday, are five points behind Tottenham with four games remaining.

POGBA TRANSFORMED
When United fell behind to Tottenham, Paul Pogba was culpable.
A high ball was launched forward by Tottenham, a lethargic Pogba didn't try to break sweat in an attempt to prevent it reaching Eriksen. It allowed the Dane to whip in a cross for Alli to slide onto at the far post and strike past David De Gea in 11th minute
Had Harry Kane made a connection at the far post with Son Heung-min's cross three minutes later, Tottenham might have extended their lead.
Instead, United were able to draw level. Pogba made amends for his earlier inertia by dispossessing Mousa Dembele and delivering a cross that Sanchez headed past static goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Sanchez did the hard work to create the winner in the 62nd, holding off Kieran Trippier and rolling the ball into the penalty area where Jesse Lingard teed up Herrera to shoot past Vorm.