World Champions Spain kicked-off their Confederations Cup campaign with a tough match against South American Champions Uruguay. The match, which was played at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, was the first Group B match in this year’s competition.
Spain, who were the stronger team in the end, emerged winners thanks to two first-half goals from Barcelona striker Pedro Rodriguez and Valencia’s Roberto Soldado. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez managed a consolation goal for his side towards the end of the game with a brilliant free-kick but, as it had looked from the start, Spain bagged all three points.
Although Spain had dominated the game from the first whistle, it took them 20 minutes to finally score an opener against Oscar Tabarez’ men. When the Uruguayan defenders failed to clear a Xavi Hernandez corner sufficiently, his Barcelona teammate, Pedro Rodriguez, received the ball and saw a good opportunity to shoot home from the edge of the box and took it. His shot took a big deflection off Malaga defender, Diego Lugano, and went into the net to make it 1-0 to Spain.
Galatasaray and Uruguay goalkeeper, Fernando Muslera, was beaten yet again just 12 minutes later on the 32nd minute when Spain scored their second goal; this time from a bigger mistake. Some good football by another Barcelona player, Andres Iniesta, allowed Cesc Fabregas to get the ball in the center and pass to Roberto Soldado on the edge of the box. Valencia’s top scorer then confidently put the ball past Muslera, who was, by this time, already having one of the worst birthdays ever for a goalkeeper!
Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani had had a chance to head things level shortly before Spain’s second goal, but he was unsuccessful. Spain continued in their strength and confidence for the remainder of the first half and went into the dressing-rooms with a comfortable 2-goal lead.
At the break, Oscar Tabarez introduced Lazio’s Alvaro Gonzalez for Southampton’s Gaston Ramirez. Vicente del Bosque made no changes and was, unsurprisingly, comfortable with a squad that had enjoyed a whole 78% possession in the first half.
The second half started more or less like the first one had: with Spain continuing to dominate. The World Cup Champions had a chance to make it 3-0 four minutes after the second half whistle, but Pedro Rodriguez was unable to receive a good Roberto Soldado cross.
Tabarez made his second substitution when nothing changed for his side, bringing on midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro for Internazionale’s Walter Gargano. Vicente del Bosque responded almost immediately by making his first substitution, Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla for Cesc Fabregas 20 minutes into the second half. Tabarez, after a glance at his watch, then made his third and final substitution bringing on his side’s top scorer, Diego Forlan for Bologna’s Diego Perez.
Uruguay had gotten stronger than they had been in the first half and caused the game to even-out for some minutes before scoring a consolation. After 38 minutes of tough football from Spain, Luis Suarez was finally gifted a chance to reduce the deficit after Sergio Ramos fouled him in a good position, favorable for his kind of free-kicks. Suarez shot and scored from the resulting free-kick and redeemed his side.
A powerless Iker Casillas in the Spain goal, who had had almost nothing to do for the whole game, this having only been Uruguay’s second shot on goal for the whole night, could do nothing to stop Suarez’ brilliant curling shot. With this goal, Suarez becomes Uruguay’s joint top goalscorer (alongside Diego Forlan) with 33 international goals for his country.
Despite the brilliance of Suarez’ goal, however, Uruguay were unable to get a second goal and Spain, who are now unbeaten in 23 games, finished with all three points. Spain had dominated a very large portion of the game and enjoyed 71% possession overall. Uruguay had been fortunate not to have conceded more than just the two goals they did. Fortunately for Oscar Tabarez’ men, however, they have a good chance against the remaining Group B teams. Their next game is against African Champions, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, whose wings they will hope to clip.
Andres Iniesta was elected Budweiser’s man of the match for the hard work he had done to help his side secure a deserved victory on the night.
Written by Ange Marline