World Champions take on debutants
© Getty Images
Today sees two FIFA Confederations Cup Group B encounters take place, with world champions Spain facing novices Tahiti, while Africa’s continental title-holders Nigeria go head-to-head with a wounded Uruguay. This may be Uruguay’s last chance to secure a semi-final spot at the competition and the match is expected to produce fireworks.
The matches
Spain-Tahiti, Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Thursday 20 June, 16.00 (local time)
Nigeria-Uruguay, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Thursday 20 June, 19.00 (local time)
The duel
Jordi Alba (Spain) vs. Steevy Chong Hue (Tahiti)
These two players met four years ago in their opening Group B game at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009. On that occasion the young Spaniards took the honours with a devastating 8-0 win, but this time around Chong Hue will be looking to recreate the form he showed at the OFC Nations Cup where his goal sealed victory for Tahiti and booked them their place at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013. Jonathan Tehau’s lone strike in a 6-1 loss to Nigeria was wildly celebrated in his home country, and if Chong Hue can do the same against Spain he will be the toast of Tahiti.
The expert’s view
“There is a lot at stake in this game since the winner has a good chance of qualifying for the semi-final. I’m confident Uruguay have fully recovered from their defeat to Spain and now it’s time for them to win. They have all the determination and attacking strength they need to prevail. On the other hand, Nigeria have proved themselves to be a powerful unit. Many assumed the players would be exhausted but quite the opposite as it turns out. They’ve got a real desire to win,” Fernando Hierro, former Spain and Real Madrid centre-back.
The stat
This is the first time the four teams have encountered their opponents at senior international level. Spain have only faced Tahiti once before, at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009, while Nigeria and Uruguay have never met at any level.
The anniversary
Colombia- New Zealand 3-1, 20 June 2003, Lyon (France)
Exactly ten years ago today Colombia played New Zealand in their second Group A match at the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003. Following on from first game losses to France and Japan respectively, both sides were determined to win and by the end of the first half it was New Zealand who had their noses in front with a single goal to nil. Things were looking dire for Colombia, whose last goal had come seven games previously, on 12 May, 2002, in a 2-1 defeat to Mexico. Yet they emerged a changed side for the second half, breaking their jinx with three goals and going on to finish fourth overall, with hosts France claiming the trophy.
The birthday
Francis Benjamin (Nigeria) – 20