World Cup 2014: France v Nigeria

FRA 2 – 0 NIG: A hugely entertaining Second Round game at the Estádio Nacional de Brasilia between two countries that know each other well and have both quietly achieved so far in this tournament. The scoreline somewhat flattered the French in truth and both the goals had an element of fortune. After a stalemate of a first half the game changed when Nigeria’s influential playmaker Ogenyi Onazi limped off due to injury after a poor challenge on him by Paul Pogba. Onazi was the standout player on the pitch up to that point and Nigeria were left to rue his absence as the French started to dominate the midfielder. It was by no means convincing from the French, however and chances were sporadic rather than consistent. There was a cruel irony about the opening goal. Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama had been commanding and faultless up to that point, however when he failed to fully deal with a Valbuena corner Paul Pogba was on hand to head the ball home. Pogba has been dreadful so far in this World Cup and he was largely anonymous tonight too. His only meaningful contribution was to crock Onazi and give France the upper hand in the centre of the park. The goal was salt in the wounds for Nigeria and not what Enyeama deserved at all. France just about deserved their win for the pressure they applied in the second half and Nigeria will be disappointed they could not replicate their first half performance after the break. Nigeria lacked the quality in the final third and too often Emmanuel Emenike was left isolated up top against a well organised and stubborn French back four. Cabaye was outstanding for France, particularly in the second half and could have scored after his superb twenty-five yard volley struck the underside of the crossbar. An own goal from Joseph Yobo minutes from time sealed Nigeria’s fate and sent a relieved France through to a quarter final tie against Germany or Algeria. Keshi will be disappointed his team did not create more chances and show the aggressive running with the ball that had served them so well in the group stages. They go home after a decent tournament. Without being spectacular, France look to be a side who believe they will get the chances and take them to win games. Sterner tests are to come than those they have faced already but Deschamps is shrewd and their best is certainly still to come.

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