After many evenly matched R/16 matches, France would play Nigeria. Here, we had clear favourites: Les Bleus. France had seen off teams in their group with some swagger, albeit they did draw their final game versus Ecuador. They were in great form, conceding only 2 goals and scoring 4 times as many. France started with Giroud and Karim Benzema up front, while Nigeria continued with Peter Odemwingie and Ahmed Musa.
The score at full time read France 2-0 Nigeria. And we can say that Nigeria were unlucky, the keeper was brilliant, but France deserved it. They were the dominant side. The game started with Les Bleus dictating play, with Valbuena-Pogba-Cabaye providing class and composure on the ball. The Super Eagles had fair share of the ball too, and were very crisp while attacking and extremely disciplined while defending. Their goalkeeper Enyeama was a calming presence in goal, and their backline was kept busy too. The moment of the half came when Nigeria had a goal disallowed for offside. Emenike slid the ball into the back of the net from a cross, but it wasn’t given. But was he offside? No. This World Cup will be remembered for bad refereeing and replays suggested he was level with defenders. The African nation should have been a goal up, but at the break, the game was still deadlocked.
The second half began with Nigeria on the back foot as France upped a gear and starting going for the kill. Nigeria had their fair share of chances and on one occasion Raphael Varane was down injured in his own net too. Odemwingie kept Evra busy whilst Musa and Co. kept Varane’s defence troubled. Lloris had relatively quiet game and wasn’t tested as such. But it was a different story for Vincent Enyeama. Save after save after save, he seemed to be the standout star. Giroud had a game to forget. Fast forward to 80 minutes and France took the lead. A corner from Valbuena came in, the keeper rushed off his line for no apparent reason and got a mild touch that went to Paul Pogba, and he headed it into the somewhat empty net. France had broken the Nigerian defence and Nigerian hearts. Paul Pogba was ecstatic and we wouldn’t be surprised if he had scored that goal because Manchester United disrespected him. It seemed France would pull through and they did so comfortably, through another goal. After Odemwingie conceded a stupid corner, a low cross from Valbuena was turned in by Joseph Yobo into his own net after some pressure from substitute Antoine Griezmann. The game was truly over and France had set up a clash with either Germany or Algeria at Rio.
The French played like Brazil and Netherlands. Risky and unconvincing, but eventually got the job done. Almost every match seems destined for an upset, but none of them have been one. It wasn’t the case here either as Enyeama’s error cost Nigeria a lot. The match was really entertaining we saw two attacking sides slugging it out blow for blow and summarily failing to take any chances in a topsy-turvy game full of imperfection and action. Giroud and Benzema were rubbish, while Pogba had a very classy game. This side looks like solid match winners and are well on course to make the last 4.
Didier Deschamps will be happy with his youngsters and has everything to lose when they play in the Quarters. We feel for Nigeria and we sympathize with Vincent Enyeama who was the standout performer. And after Germany saw off Algeria in extra time, we feel France vs Germany will be a legendary encounter.
FIFA Man Of The Match: Paul Pogba
Lively and full of energy, he took his goal with aplomb to set France on their way. He maneuvered the midfield well and had a telling contribution to the game. Made a statement to other youngsters, that Paul Pogba is one of the best kids on the block.
Our Man Of The Match: Vincent Enyeama
Unfortunately the fall guy for the goal after flapping at Valbuena’s cross. Had made some smart stops prior to the error and was the reason that Nigeria were in the contest for so long. He was the best player overall.
Our Flop Of The Match: Olivier Giroud
The lesser we say about the Arsenal frontman, the better. He seemed lost and tired in attack and offered absolutely nothing. He struggled to have much of an impact prior to being replaced by Antoine Griezmann in the second half. His best moment of the match was his cross, that went out of play some 30 yards back from the by line. Only exchanged one pass with Benzema in the entire game and we are pretty confident that Griezmann will start the next game.