Nigerians facing mission improbable


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 - Page 20

Buoyed by their 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 semi-finals.

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 centerback Sergio Ramos kept his place, and the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta could return against Nigeria.

Spain’s strong start to the tournament means they go into today’s match in Fortaleza 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 today’s game level on points with the South American champions.

If Uruguay, as expected, record a big 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.”