Brazil World Cup 2014: France v Nigeria

By on June 30, 2014

France will be looking to reach the World Cup final again after their last appearance in 2006 but they have to progress to the quarter finals first and will go head to head against Nigeria in an attempt to do so.

France have been a revelation in this World Cup campaign after a horror show in South Africa back in 2010. Unlike the side from 2010, this French squad has a sense of unity in them and quality to match it. They have been brilliant in the group stages. They kicked off their campaing against Honduras where they were off to a slow start but after opening the scoring through a Karim Benzema penalty, they took control of the game and finished with a 3-0 win. They faced their toughest opponents of the group, Switzerland, in their second group game but to the surprise of many, they completely thrashed the Swiss in that game and were 5 goals ahead at one point in the game. They did however concede two late goals to finish the game with a 5-2 scoreline. With two wins from two, they had already booked their place in the next round but Didier Deschamps men were going for the perfect record and entered the final game of the group stages with an eye on all three points. However, Ecuador did serve as tough opponents and did not allow France any space to attack and Les Bleus had to settle for a 0-0 draw. The result did not effect France’s fate as they ended the group on top.

With the absence of Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Hathem Ben Arfa, many argued that this French side would struggle to find form in the World Cup. However, Deschamps has managed this young sqaud of players very well and if the group stages are anything to go by, they are one of the favorites to reach the final and potentially lift the World Cup. The likes of Antoine Griezmann and Mathieu Valbuena have really stepped up, especially Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema who has scored three goals in three appearances and leads the goalscoring charts for the French. The most important thing about this squad is they are not always direct and they don’t have one target man as the midfield and the wingers contribute to everything, from the buildup to the goals. The attacking line-up is very impressive, they have found it difficutl to unlock tightly organized defences as they suffered against Ecuador and Nigeria are known for a tight defensive setup. A lot of the responsibility will be on the shoulders of the midfielders in terms of creativity as there won’t be many spaces in the final third.

One thing that Deschamps will be weary off is their defence that has been shaky at times. Although Nigeria do not host a very threatening attacking line-up they do possess some quality as was evident in their game against Argentina where they managed to score twice when the Argentine defence suffered a lapse in concentration, and they may very well cause problems for the French if the defence cannot maintain their focus. In the knockout rounds, single mistakes can cost you as there are no second chances so Deschamps must prepare his defence for the match in a proper fashion.

Nigeria’s run in the group stages was shaky to say the least as they had to rely on some luck to qualify for the knockout round. They faced Iran in their opening game in what was a competition of defences with both sides locking down their backlines very tightly. Nigeria could not get all three points from that game and had to settle for a 0-0 draw. They faced Bosnia & Herzegovnia in their second group game. The Nigerians again found it difficult to create chances owing to the lack of creativity in the side. However they did manage to score a goal and their defence was able to keep the Bosnians out of their goal. Luck was on their side as well as Bosnia’s Edin Dzeko had a late chance to equalize but he was called offside. The replays showed that the Manchester City striker was in fact onside and it was a wrong call that cost them the game and earned Nigeria all three points. With four points from two games, Nigeria were relying on Iran to lose in their final game to have any hopes of qualifying for the next round. Nigeria lost to Argentina in the final group game but Iran alse failed to get anything from their game and subsequently, Nigeria managed to reach the knockout round.

Nigeria are yet to properly kickoff their competition to say the least as their display in the group stages has not been impressive at all. The lack of creativity in their midfield is destined to cause them problems against tight defences. France especially will not a lot them any space on the ball and it will take some effort from Nigeria to cause an upset in the game. They are the underdogs however, and that might play in their favour. What Nigeria must ensure is that they make use of their opportunities and not let them go to waste. The French defence is prone to blunders and they are vulnerable and that might be what the Nigerians would hope for. Key would be to apply pressure on the defence and cause them to make errors.

Nigeria have kept a tight defence in this tournament having conceded none in their opening two games. They did concede three against Argentina however but it was an unconventionally open game for them as they managed to score two themselves. Important thing for coach Keshi is that they have a tight defensive setup and they can set out to frustrate their opponents and draw them out. France have problems unlocking tight defenses and if Nigeria can keep their heads while defending, they might very well manage a clensheet against the French. Furthermore, by drawing Les Bleus out of their positions, they might have a chance of causing problems on the counter. Nigeria’s main target will be to keep the French from scoring early on and pressurize them as the game goes on. Nigeria can cause an upset if they get a late goal which is very much the possibility if the scoreline remains at 0-0 for long.

France have a couple of injury problems ahead of the game. Didier Deschamps will have to make do without Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho who is out with an injury. Arsenal defender Lorient Koscielny is also suffering from a knock and he will not be able to fill in for Sakho which means that Eliaquim Mangala might be handed a start alongside Raphael Varane. Deschamps will also have to decide between Sissoko and Pogba as both have had a good run in the group stages and are in contention for a start alongside Cabaye ad Matuidi. There’s still doubt over who will start up front alongside Valbuena and Benzema. Griezmann is the favorite to start in this game but Giroud is also in contention and if the Arsenal man is handed a start, Karim Benzema will be shifted to the left again.

Nigeria have injury concerns of their own as midfielder Michael Babatunde who suffered a horrific injury against Argentina is unlikely to make a comeback to the squad before the end of the tournament. Victor Moses’ fitness is still in doubt as well and he is not expected to start in this one unless he is given the green light in time. Peter Odemwingie and Musa are set to start in attack alongside Emenike.

DATE: June 30, 2014

TIME: 9:00 PM BST

VENUE: Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia, Distrito Federal

REFEREE: M. Geiger

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
France (4-3-3):- Hlloris; Evra, Mangala, Varane, Debuchy; Pogba, Cabaye; Matuidi; Griezmann, Benzema, Valbuena
Nigeria (4-2-3-1):- Enyeama; Oshaniwa, Oboabona, Omeruo, Ambrose; Mikel, Onazi; Musa, Azeez, Odemwingie; Emenike

LAST MATCH:
France:- 0-0 vs Ecuador
Nigeria:- 2-3 vs Argentina

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: France 3-1 Nigeria

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