Spain, runners-up at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007, face a stern quarter-final challenge in the 2009 edition of the showpiece tournament. Gines Melendez's side have swept all before them in Nigeria thus far, but now meet Uruguay at the Ahmadu Bello stadium in Kaduna on Monday. The Europeans will aim to maintain their blistering attacking form in the clash with the obdurate South Americans.
Ahead of the match-up with La Celeste, seasoned Spain boss Melendez is in characteristically confident mood, and with good reason. The Iberians boast the most potent forward line in the tournament with 13 goals so far, compared to Uruguay's modest total of five - level with the Italians as the least prolific of the teams still left in the finals.
Both teams are on a roll as they head for Kaduna, although their collective confidence was generated in completely contrasting ways. Spain were one of just two nations to come through the group phase in Nigeria without dropping a point, before making short work of Burkina Faso in the round of 16 by a 4-1 margin. Only one thing has eluded Melendez's lads so far: a clean sheet. Uruguay, who made the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams, have improved with every game so far. Indeed, there was a good deal of class shown in their impressive 2-1 extra-time victory over Asian champions Iran in the last-sixteen.
If history counts for anything, it favours the Europeans. The only previous meeting between the teams at a FIFA World Cup finals for this age group ended 1-0 to the Spanish, although that was some 18 years ago in Italy. Nevertheless, La Rojita are a fearsome prospect at junior level. Not counting the penalty shoot-out defeat to Nigeria in the final at Korea 2007, they are undefeated in 11 matches at the tournament.
What is more, Uruguay will be hampered by the loss of two key defenders. Ramon Arias is suspended after collecting two yellow cards and Bruno Marchelli is out of the tournament with a broken arm sustained in the meeting with Iran. Spain coach Melendez has no such worries and will field a full-strength line-up.
1 - The round-of-16 victory over Iran was the first time Uruguay have ever won a match in extra-time at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Overall, the South Americans have a patchy record in extra-time at FIFA tournaments, with 11 defeats from 15 attempts.
"Uruguay have a very good team with a handful of really promising players. We respect them, and I think it'll be a great game. Whoever makes the first mistake will lose." Gines Melendez, Spain coach
"Are Spain favourites? OK, we only finished third in our group, but we've just knocked out the Asian champions, who were undefeated up to then. I reckon the Spanish will have their reservations about facing us." Roland Marcenaro, Uruguay coach