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Group D: Spain vs. Nigeria

SITE: Nantes

TIME: 5:30 a.m. TV: ESPN2, Ch. 34. KWKW (1330, Spanish)

* ABOUT NIGERIA: Rocked by a series of bad losses in preparatory games, Nigeria will be looking to return to its Olympic gold-medal form of 1996. The team appears to have struggled in adapting to the coaching of Bora Milutinovic, who emphasizes defensive play and possession runs. Injuries, too, have slowed the Super Eagles. Striker Kanu is struggling to regain match fitness after an earlier injury, and forward Daniel Amokachi twisted his right knee during training Tuesday.

* ABOUT SPAIN: Spain is an experienced, cohesive side with solid players, perhaps lacking just a little in flair. But under Coach Javier Clemente, the Spanish have been defeated only four times in 58 games since 1992, so flair might be overrated. Fernando Hierro, Luis Enrique and Raul are three of the stars, but Clemente can call on all 22 of his players because his team is injury-free.

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* OUTLOOK: Nigeria is more powerful than Spain and has first-class players in Sunday Oliseh, Finidi and Victor Ikpeba, among others. The problem has been getting the squad, drawn from 10 countries, to play together as a team. The Nigerians also can be overly rigorous in their tackling, which could draw the wrath of U.S. referee Esse Baharmast. Spain has the edge, providing its defense stays calm and its players are not rattled by Nigeria’s power game.


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