Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has backed Roberto Soldado after the striker failed to score in the world champions’ 3-0 win over Nigeria.
Del Bosque started Soldado in Spain’s third Confederations Cup group game on Sunday, seemingly confirming that the Valencia forward is his preferred man to play in the middle of the front three, ahead of Chelsea’s Fernando Torres and David Villa of Barcelona.
Villa and Torres both scored hat-tricks against Tahiti after starting but were dropped back to the bench against Nigeria.
Soldado, who started and scored in Spain’s opening win over Uruguay, failed to hit the back of the net against Nigeria, while Torres and Villa both came off the bench to notch a goal and an assist respectively, but del Bosque made it clear he believed his starting striker had done a good job.
“Roberto has done his job and Fernando has done his,” del Bosque said after Sunday’s game in Fortaleza.
“A team needs fresh legs.
“Soldado had a couple of good plays where he was in front of the goalkeeper.
“We’re happy with both (players).”
Del Bosque claimed Spain struggled with the heat against Nigeria but the 62-year-old coach praised his team’s ability to conserve energy in Fortaleza.
“It was a tough match,” del Bosque said.
“We had a great opponent and they managed to create a balance in possession, looking for victory.
“We had control, patience and I think this was an unfair result as both teams should have scored more.
“To have a balance between patience and all-out speed is very beneficial.
“We had two big opponents today, the heat and Nigeria.
“Playing 90 minutes in this heat and at this rhythm is impossible.”
Spain will take on Italy in the Confederations Cup semi-finals after going through the group stage with a 100 percent record but full-back Jordi Alba, who scored twice against Nigeria, remains wary of Cesare Prandelli’s side.
“Against a team like Italy you don’t know what to expect,” the 24-year-old said.
“They’re organized at the back and they’re great on the ball.
“They’ll be tough on us, the way they always have been.
“We need to maintain our style of play and post a clean sheet at the back.”
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said his squad improved in Brazil, despite their group-stage exit from the tournament.
“It’s been a learning curve for us. This is a team that is not used to going down 2-0,” Keshi said.
“They lost the shape of the team, and everything was going everywhere. I think that was the major problem, mostly in the second half.
“In the first half we were very composed, the tactical play was there. But in the second half, when the conceded the second goal they became unprofessional, which is all about experience which is going to come later.”
Keshi was under no illusions the result was somewhat out of their hands given Spain’s pitch-wide quality.
“We lost the match because we played against a better side, a team that have been together for a very long time,” he said.
“It’s been a learning process for us. We just need to continue from our strong start tonight and build on that.
“The professionalism of the teams and the coaches that I have spoken with, the insight and tactical play of the teams in the tournament has been very educational.
“I think we are going to go back with some level of education.”