With three of the fours sides in the section advancing to the Round of 16, there was a widespread sense of satisfaction when Group E came to a close. And while Spain, USA and UAE all prepare for the knockout rounds, Malawi, the one side to be going home early, can look back with some satisfaction on their FIFA World Cup finals debut, picking up valuable experience for the future.
The final standings
1. Spain (9 pts)
2. USA (6)
3. United Arab Emirates (3)
4. Malawi (0)
Italy-USA, Wednesday 4 November, Kaduna, 16:00 (local time)
Turkey-UAE, Wednesday 4 November, Enugu, 19:00 (local time)
Spain-Burkina Faso, Thursday 5 November, Kano, 16:00 (local time)
The tale of the teams
Surprises were few and far between as Spain and the United States claimed the top two places ahead of outsiders United Arab Emirates and debutants Malawi. The Africans acquitted themselves well, however, showing in their opening game against UAE that they would be no pushovers, despite falling to a 2-0 defeat.
After qualifying in less than impressive style at last year's UEFA Under-17 European Championship, Spain were under immediate pressure in their opener against the Americans. Yet, after going a goal and a man down right at the start of the game, Gines Melendez's charges fought back with style to earn an unlikely 2-1 win.
Having survived that scare, La Roja never looked back, easing to respective 3-1 and 4-1 victories over UAE and Malawi to win the section with plenty to spare. USA came in second but struggled to convert their superiority over the Asians and Africans, and had to be content with a brace of slender 1-0 wins in their final two games.
Despite losing twice, the boys from the Persian Gulf did enough to squeeze into the Round of 16 for the first time ever, much to their unconcealed delight. Having seen his charges clear that hurdle, coach Ali Ibrahim will be demanding they overcome yet more obstacles.
Moments to savour
Ten men stand tall
Spain showed their class in their first outing against USA. Rocked by the dismissal of defender Sergi Gomez with barely a minute gone, things went from bad to worse for the Spaniards when they fell behind moments later. Making light of the circumstances, La Roja turned the game around inside half an hour, Borja Gonzalez and Pablo Sarabia leading the charge with a goal apiece.
A goal to remember
Although victory eluded them on their first appearance at a FIFA tournament, newcomers Malawi at least went out in style when skipper Bruno Milanzi scored their first and only goal of the competition late on against Spain. Having had a long-awaited taste of the big stage, the African minnows depart Nigeria with big plans for the future.
UAE bridge the gulf
United Arab Emirates made a little bit of history when they checked into the knockout rounds in only their second appearance in the competition. After kicking off with an ultimately decisive defeat of Malawi, UAE showed they belong at the highest level with gutsy performances against Spain and USA.
16 - The number of goals scored by the four teams in Group E. Spain outgunned their three rivals by bagging nine in all, while USA and UAE both scored three. Malawi found the back of the net just once, eight minutes from the end of their final game against the Spanish, a welcome consolation at the end of their baptism of fire.
The closing remarks
"Throughout the tournament I received phone calls from Malawi encouraging us to keep going, and though we didn't manage to win a game I think we can be satisfied with the job we've done here. Now we need to work hard and continue on this road to ensure Malawian football keeps progressing. It has made us very proud to represent Africa at this World Cup." Malawi coach John Kaputa