Nigeria suffered their first defeat in 20 matches against Uruguay on Thursday, ending a run which started in October 2010, while Spain became the first team to reach double figures in the tournament’s history after beating Tahiti 10-0 in Rio de Janeiro.
However, the African champions do have some history on their side. The only time the two sides have met was at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, when Nigeria defeated Spain 3-2 in the group stage. That enabled them to top the group and qualify for the last 16, while Spain finished third and were eliminated.
The game also brings together Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Cesar Azpilicueta and John Obi Mikel who are team-mates at English Premier League side Chelsea.
In theory, both sides have everything to play for. Mathematically, Nigeria and Spain can still qualify for the semi-finals and also exit the competition. Spain need a point to be certain of taking top spot, while Nigeria need to win and hope their goal difference is better than Uruguay’s at the end of the game.
Six players are treading a disciplinary tightrope. Bookings for the Super Eagles’ Joseph Akpala, Michael Babatunde and Kenneth Omeruo and Spain’s Alvaro Arbeloa, Santi Cazorla and Gerard Pique would see them miss a semi-final clash.
14 – Spain are unbeaten in their last 14 matches at major international tournaments (2010 FIFA World Cup, UEFA EURO 2012, FIFA Confederations Cup 2013). Brazil hold the record of 28 without a defeat from 1993 to 1998.
“Anything can happen against Spain. Everything is achievable, it depends on how much desire you have in you. How badly you want it and of course an element of luck to be on your side. I cannot question the boys’ level of commitment and their loyalty,” Stephen Keshi, Nigeria coach.