Gunslingers ready for Cairo duel
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Spain and Venezuela, the first two sides to qualify for the last 16 of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009, cross swords at Cairo's Al Salam Stadium on Thursday to decide which of the two will go through as the winners of Group B.

Both sides have almost identical records going into the game: two matches played, two wins and no goals conceded, although the Spaniards currently lead the section having scored ten goals to Venezuela's nine. A draw in the Egyptian capital would be enough, therefore, for them to finish first.

In the build-up to the group decider spoke to two players who have impressed in Egypt and should have plenty more to say on Thursday: Spain forward Aaron Niguez and Venezuelan counterpart Jose Rondon.

Pacy and direct, Niguez led Spain's goal charge in their first match against Tahiti, scoring twice and providing a couple of assists. Did he expect such a productive start to the tournament? "A little bit," affirms the Celta Vigo man. "I know what I can offer and everything came off for me in that game. I'm hungry for more now and though I'd rather be scoring goals than setting them up, I'm perfectly happy laying on the final pass. That shows that the team is getting things right."

Spain's early qualification for the Round of 16 has come as no surprise for the 20-year-old, who is nevertheless reluctant to list the sides he would like to face there. "Our approach has always been to go one game at a time and we can't stop doing that now. All we can do is focus on the Venezuela game. There'll be plenty of time afterwards to study our opponents in the next round."

"Every game is entirely different," continues Niguez, who hails from the southern Spanish city of Elche. "In our first match we felt very comfortable right from the start but in the second Nigeria made life very difficult for us. We held it together, though, and struck at just the right time. The important thing is to have those two attributes: the ability to play good football and to defend."

Naturally we're happy to have qualified but we're also a little surprised. That's what we've been working for though.
Jose Rondon, Venezuela forward.

As for the showdown with Venezuela, the self-professed Ronaldinho fan is expecting an open encounter. "Both sides like to play good football and they've got players with a lot of self-confidence, which should make for a really entertaining game. We need to be careful because there's a difference between going through first or second. We're very ambitious and we don't just want to win. Making a good impression is important too."

Those goals are shared by Venezuela and the powerful, quick-thinking Rondon, who performed a vital role in the group opener against the Nigerians, holding the ball up for his team-mates and working tirelessly as the first line of defence. His reward for that selfless display was a hat-trick in the next game against the luckless Tahitians.

"It doesn't matter who gets the goals," he says, deflecting attention away from a fine individual performance. "It's reaching the second round that counts." And as he goes on to reveal, such modesty is a hallmark of Venezuela's approach. "Naturally we're happy to have qualified but we're also a little surprised. That's what we've been working for though. We don't like to go on too much about it because talk is cheap, and the key now is not to get over-confident and to stay calm. We haven't won anything yet."

Having joined Spanish second division side Las Palmas in 2008, Rondon has good reason to look forward to the meeting with La Roja. "I know quite a few of their players and I've even played against some of them. They're a well-knit, balanced team that likes to attack down the flanks. That's their strength: getting to the by-line and putting in crosses for their strikers to get on the end of. We need to be very watchful."

That said, the in-form Rondon does not believe La Vinotinto need to change their set-up to face down the Spanish threat. "We have a compact defence, a balanced attack and a system that's worked for us up to now. Why would we change that? We know it's a vital game and we're going to put everything into it, but at the same time there's no sense in taking unnecessary risks. We need to keep our heads, stay humble and keep sight of our goals without getting carried away."