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."
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.
Spain wrapped up their group stage campaign of the Confederations Cup with ease after recording a comfortable 3-0 victory over Nigeria at the Estadio Castelao Fortaleza on Sunday.
A brilliant solo double from Jordi Alba and a header from substitute Fernando Torres sealed the victory over a disappointing Super Eagles side, who were undone by their own inability to finish the numerous chances that came their way.
Predictably, Vicente del Bosque made a number of changes from the side that dismantled Tahiti 10-0 on Thursday, with Victor Valdes starting in goal and Roberto Soldado preferred to hat-trick heroes Torres and David Villa. Nigeria, meanwhile, made two changes from the line-up that suffered defeat against Uruguay, with Joseph Akpala and Sunday Mba returning for Nnamdi Oduamadi and John Ogu.
Spain settled into their rhythm early on, with Andres Iniesta nutmegging a defender en route to testing Vincent Enyeama with a good effort inside a minute.
The early barrage continued, and Jordi Alba opened the scoring two minutes later in scintillating fashion. Picking up the ball after a neat pass from Iniesta, the Barcelona full-back embarked on a fine run, slaloming past three Nigerian defenders before coolly slotting the ball past Enyeama to put la Roja 1-0 up.
The African champions struggled in the opening exchanges with Cesc Fabregas denied by Enyeama as Spain looked to take control, but at the other end, they too saw a chance go begging, with Sergio Ramos hurriedly thwarting John Obi Mikel after the ball had fallen to him following good work by Joseph Akpala.
Stephen Keshi's side rallied, and soon began to pose problems for the world and European champions. Set through by Ideye Brown, Sunday Mba produced a stinging effort from distance which required Valdes to divert it away for a corner.
But Spain continued to press in search for a second. First, Ramos' superb long ball picked out Soldado, whose brief hesitation allowed Enyeama to recover, before the Valencia striker's pin-point delivery off the wing for Fabregas saw the latter strike against the post when he really should have done better.
The profligate finishing continued early into the second half as both sides' search for another goal continued.. Ahmed Musa's threatening delivery off the right flank picked out Brown in the middle, but somehow, the striker couldn't connect cleanly with the ball. At the other end, Xavi flashed a free kick narrowly over the bar as Spain looked to kill off proceedings.
And just after the hour, Spain did indeed double their advantage. Torres, who had been only on the field for two minutes, capitalised on some poor defending to power home a header from Pedro's fine cross.
Nigeria began to tire towards the end of the second period, amidst the typical passing intensity imposed by their opponents, but they once again failed to beat Valdes in the Spain goal when gifted a gilt-edged chance. Another teasing delivery from Musa saw substitute Muhammad Gambo through clean on goal, but he somehow contrived to fire horribly wide of the post.
Alba then wrapped up a fine performance with two minutes to go, latching onto David Silva's long pass to round Enyeama and into an empty net to seal all three points for Del Bosque's charges and show his opponents the kind of composure they were missing in front of goal.
Spain top Group B with nine points, and will face Itay in a rematch of last year's Euro 2012 final in the last four on Thursday in Fortaleza, while Uruguay progress to face Brazil after their 8-0 thrashing of Tahiti.
Nigeria captain Vincent Enyeama insists they have no fear ahead of their Confederations Cup clash with Spain on Sunday.
Progression for the Super Eagles is tricky as they would have to beat Spain, and hope Uruguay do not arrest a four-goal differential when the South Americans take on Tahiti - who have conceded 16 goals in two games.
Although their tournaments looks likely to close with the clash in Fortaleza, Ceara, Enyeama said they are not afraid of taking on the World Cup and European champions.
"I don't think there is one Nigerian player here that is scared ... none," said Enyeama, who is a goalkeeper at Ligue 1 outfit Lille.
"We are so proud of our teams in Nigeria. They are mostly playing in their country and some of our players are playing in our country which makes it balanced.
"The teams in Spain are much bigger than the teams in Nigeria but we are proud of our league, we are proud of our country and we are happy.
"We are here to represent this colour, we are proud to wear this colour and we will steak everything for this colour."
Enyeama said the Spain squad have shown their quality in their homeland, but he and his team-mates are still looking forward to a competitive contest to close out Group B on a high.
"We are expecting a great game tomorrow," Enyeama said.
"We know what quality they have in their team and what they are made of.
"They have achieved so much in recent years with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
"It's going to be a big delight for us to face those guys, a big pleasure and we are looking forward to this game with a lot of enthusiasm. It's going to be a big game."
Coach Stephen Keshi was also optimistic his side could compete with the star-studded Spaniards.
"It's going to be a different spirit of game, a different attitude," Keshi said.
"Spain are one of the best teams in the world and it is a great pleasure for us to come out here and play against Spain.
"It's a good lesson for my players and a good lesson for me too. It's something we are looking forward to tomorrow."
Nigeria midfielder Ogenyi Onazi will not be involved in Sunday's crunch clash against Spain in Fortaleza because of a knee injury.
Coach Stephen Keshi confirmed this week that the Lazio player will stay back in Nigeria for treatment after previously expressing optimism that he could be fit in time to feature in the tournament.
Winger Nnamdi Oduamadi is a doubt after picking up a knock in the defeat against Uruguay, while striker Ideye Brown could keep his place in the starting XI ahead of Anthony Ujah.
Spain are expected to recall several of their key players after fielding a largely second-string team against Tahiti.
Roberto Soldado may be preferred as the central striker ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa, who shared seven goals between them in the 10-0 hammering of the Pacific islanders, having sat out following the 2-1 win over the Copa American winners.
Nigeria have only won two of their last six international fixtures (W2, D3, L1). However, the 2-1 defeat to Uruguay on Thursday ended a 19-match unbeaten run.
The Super Eagles' only previous competitive encounter with Spain ended in a 3-2 victory in the group stage of the 1998 World Cup.
John Obi Mikel (pictured, right) made his 50th appearance for Nigeria in the defeat against Uruguay, crowning the landmark with a goal.
Spain are on a five-game winning run and are unbeaten in their last 24 matches.
La Roja last faced African opponents in the previous edition of the Confederations Cup in 2009. They beat host nation South Africa 3-2 in the third-place play-off.
Only a defeat by four goals or more against Nigeria would put Spain at risk of elimination from the tournament.
Spain go into their Confederations Cup clash against Nigeria knowing a point will be enough to see them through to the semi-finals.
But that is unlikely to have any impact on Vicente Del Bosque's world and European champions heading into the Group B encounter at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza.
Spain were last beaten in November 2011, when a Frank Lampard goal gave England a 1-0 win in a friendly at Wembley.
They have gone unbeaten in their past 24 matches since that day, and will be hot favourites against a Nigeria side who suffered a 2-1 loss to Uruguay on Thursday.
Spain, meanwhile, thrashed minnows Tahiti 10-0, with Fernando Torres scoring four times to be the top scorer at the tournament.
David Villa netted a hat-trick and David Silva scored a brace, and that talent should be too much for Nigeria to deal with.
Showcasing their depth, Spain had the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta come off the bench against Tahiti.
Roberto Soldado was handed an opportunity in Spain's 2-1 win over Uruguay in their first match, and he made the most of it by scoring.
Whether he returns to the starting line-up ahead of the knockout stages or Torres keeps his spot will be a tough decision for Del Bosque to make.
Spain are yet to book their spot in the last four and a loss would throw the group wide open, with Uruguay likely to thrash Tahiti.
Del Bosque will also be wary of flirting with his side's form ahead of a semi-final meeting with either Brazil or Italy.
Stephen Keshi's men looked most dangerous on the counter-attack against Uruguay and – with Spain likely to dominate possession – that should be their plan again.
Ideye Brown and Ahmed Musa are both lively and Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel scored a fine goal to draw his side level on Thursday.
But if beating Uruguay was a big ask, getting anything out of a clash against Spain is an even bigger one.
|24-06||Goalless Soldado gets del Bosque support|
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|23-06||Nigeria 0-3 Spain: Jordi Alba and Torres ensure world champions top Group B|
|23-06||Nothing to fear for Nigeria, says Enyeama|
|22-06||Nigeria-Spain Preview: World champions look to seal last-four berth|
|21-06||FIFA Confederations Cup Preview: Nigeria v Spain|