Spain secured their third win of the FIFA Confederations Cup with a 3-0 victory over Nigeria on Sunday to set up a semi-final with Italy.
A double from Jordi Alba and Fernando Torres’ fifth goal of the tournament sealed the victory for the world champions, who already knew they would be progressing to the last four before the start of their final Group B match in Fortaleza on Sunday.
Spain’s slick passing football enabled them to control large periods of the game, but Nigeria were unlucky not to get themselves on the scoresheet as they missed a handful of excellent chances throughout.
Alba’s strike in the fourth minute gave Spain the perfect start, the full-back showing excellent skill before placing a low shot into the bottom corner. Torres added a second after the break, but Mohamed Gambo and Sunday Mba should have at least tested Victor Valdes in the Spain goal before Alba sealed the win with his second in the closing minutes.
Vicente del Bosque named the same side that started the opening match against Uruguay, with the exception of Valdes replacing Iker Casillas. Stephen Keshi made two changes to the team beaten 2-1 by Uruguay last time out. Their top goalscorer in the tournament, Nnamdi Oduamadi, was ruled out through injury and John Ogu was rested, with Joseph Akpala and Mba starting.
The reigning world and European champions made a positive start to the match and they were ahead early on through Alba following a neat passing move. Andres Iniesta spotted the run of his Barcelona team-mate in behind the Nigeria defence and rolled a perfect pass into him, Alba jinked his way past three defenders before calmly sliding the ball past Vincent Enyeama.
The Nigerian goalkeeper made good saves from Cesc Fabregas and Roberto Soldado before the Africa Cup of Nations winners were able to really test Valdes, Mba seeing a low shot turned around the post by the Barcelona keeper.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Fabregas should have doubled Spain’s lead but somehow managed to hit the post from six yards. Soldado broke down the right-hand side and delivered a perfect pass into the midifelder, but his strike hit the post and rebounded into the grateful hands of Enyeama.
However, Spain extended their advantage early in the second half as substitute Torres netted with a brave header from a Pedro cross. The ball was worked out to the left-hand side for the Barcelona forward and he delivered a first-time cross with his left foot that Torres, who had only been on the pitch a minute, connected with to score from close range.
Despite their dominance, Del Bosque’s team still looked vulnerable to the counter attack from Nigeria and Gambo should have got a goal back in the 75th minute. The substitute was brilliantly picked out by Ahmed Musa on the left of the penalty area but, as Valdes came out to meet him, he lifted his shot wide of the far post.
With time running out, Spain caught Nigeria on the counter-attack with the impressive Alba latching onto a pass from David Villa. Enyeama tried to come out and meet him but he calmly rounded the 30-year-old and rolled the ball into the empty net to seal his country’s safe passage into the final four.