Down To The Last Four - Confederations Cup Diary
The formalities have been duly completed, Spain and Uruguay join Brazil and Italy in the Confederations Cup semi-finals, with the Spaniards outclassing Nigeria 3-0 while Uruguay, minus strikers Suarez and Cavani, settled for eight against Tahiti. In an effort to suggest Nigeria might trouble Spain, the Beeb treated us to pre-match clips of the 1998 World Cup clash between the nations in Nantes. Incredibly, Nigeria won that game 3-2, in a brilliant ding-dong encounter if my memory serves me correctly, but once Jordi Alba had ventured forward to fire Spain into a third minute lead there was little prospect of an action replay. The Africans did get forward from time to time but, as is the norm, the Spanish had the bulk of the ball and were always more likely to add to their lead than to concede an equaliser. Valencia's Roberto Soldado had several opportunities to kill off the Nigerians before half-time but it looked like he was playing blindfolded so the underdogs took encouragement from this and made a game of it. Vicente del Bosque persisted with Soldado after the interval before deciding Fernando Torres was more likely to stretch Spain's lead. And in the 61st minute, just two minutes after replacing Soldado, it was Torres who got on to a Pedro cross to end a flowing passing move with a classic diving header. Thereafter it was the perfect chance for Spain to show off all their party tricks. They knocked the ball around nonchalantly, looked capable of adding to their goals tally at will but, much to the frustration of the Fortaleza fans, opted for showboating over goalscoring. Jon Obi Mikel impressed for Nigeria in a more forward role than he fills at Chelsea and with more ruthlessness up front they could have set up a stirring finish. As it turned out, the game finished as it had started, with Jordi Alba linking up well with those in front of him and charging forward to dance around the goalkeeper and run the ball into the net for goal number three. Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez surprised everyone by dropping both Luiz Suarez and Edinson Cavani against Tahiti but stand-in selection Abel Hernandez certainly didn't let anybody down. A header inside two minutes, a stunning take and volley twenty minutes later, a strike from Perez and a ruthless finish to complete Hernandez's hat-trick before half-time saw the game follow a predictable pattern. The one-way traffic continued after the break, Scotti had a penalty kick saved by Tahitian keeper Meriel, much to the delight of the Recife crowd. Meriel was the third goalkeeper Tahiti have used in this tournament. Maybe if they'd fielded all three together they could have sprung a shock or two!!! Scotti completed an unwanted double when, just a minute after missing from the spot, he picked up his second yellow card to become the first player to be sent off in this competition. Tahiti's Ludivion soon joined him in the dressing room, Lodeiro quickly made it 5-0, then Hernandez took over penalty kick duties to net his fourth and Uruguay's sixth goal. Luiz Suarez replaced Gaston Ramirez for the final 20 minutes and knocked in two late strikes to take his international haul to 35, leapfrogging back over Diego Forlan whose winner against Nigeria at the weekend had made him Uruguay's record goalscorer. So as expected it is Brazil v Uruguay on Wednesday and Spain v Italy 24 hours later. Everyone is predicting Brazil against Spain in the final but already the Italians are making noises about upsetting the form book. Bring it on!
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