French quality overcome Nigeria to reach World Cup quarter-finals
The game was largely balanced before France’s quality eventually edged them past the African champions to earn a quarter-final spot, with a Pogba header and a Yobo own-goal separating the two sides.
France: Lloris – Debuchy, Varane, Koscielny, Evra – Cabaye, Pogba, Matuidi – Valbuena, Giroud, Benzema.
Nigeria: Enyeama – Ambrose, Yobo, Omeruo, Oshaniwa – Mikel, Onazi – Musa, Odemwingie, Moses – Emenike
Positive intent was shown by both teams early on, with the game witnessing two corners in the opening five minutes. Despite plenty of forward play by the two teams, there was a deficiency of incisiveness on the final ball; it took half an hour for the first shot on target – Pogba forcing a brilliant save from Enyeama at point-blank range.
Nigeria were particularly guilty; they dominated the midfield thanks to the industry shown by their forward men in dropping to the midfield but didn’t have a truly dangerous moment in the first half.
It was France who looked, slightly, the dangerous team despite lesser possession as a result of starting two strikers. They had a few neat team moves that ended with Valbuena sending passes across the box; Pogba and Debuchy falling short. France’ orchestrator, Cabaye, was forced to play near his defence thus much of the first half’s key movements took place on the flanks – resulting in a lot of corners.
The second half started in the first half template until two events forced the sparring partners to start exchanging blows. Onazi was stretchered off with an injury (Ruben Gabriel coming on) while France changed tactics; bringing in Griezmann for Giroud.
The game immediately sprung to life with the Super Eagles getting the first go; Odemwingie’s effort the first real chance for Nigeria. From then on it was all Les Bleus. Benzema, the first beneficiary of goal-line technology in this World Cup, forced reference to technology as his effort was cleared by Victor Moses almost on the line. Nigeria didn’t get a breather; a subsequent French onslaught seeing Cabaye’s effort ricochet off the cross bar.
As the French mounted pressure, it felt like it was only a matter of time despite Enyeama’s heroics on goal. Enyeama stepped up one last time, from a Benzema bullet header, before Nigeria finally cracked. Pogba heading home after Enyeama’s vain attempt to come off his line form the ensuing corner-kick. Misery heaped on the Super Eagles after Odemwingie conceded an unnecessary corner and Yobo made his 100th cap one to forget, as he deflected a ball driven into the area past his onrushing goalkeeper.
France advance to the final eight as the African champions fall to the 2nd elite team they’ve faced in the 2014 World Cup.
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