How did they get here?
France kicked off their campaign with an easy 3-0 win over a physical Honduras side, before outclassing Switzerland in the second game; they raced into a 5-0 lead but conceded twice late on, the only goals against them so far this tournament, to make the final score 5-2. With progression to the second round assured, they finished the group stage with a goalless draw after Ecuador, simultaneously confirming their place as group winners and ending the South American side’s hopes of progressing to the last 16.
France are the perennial dark horses of the tournament with a young, talented squad preparing to make their mark for the right reasons, contrasting with the early exit and negative press surrounding their predecessors in South Africa four years ago. Benzema has proved to be the top class finisher they need to finish off some fantastic moves, and the side have only really come under threat defensively when they were cruising to victory against Switzerland. They are an up and coming side, with stars playing in the top leagues, and will fancy their chances of going all the way.
Didier Deschamps’ Les Bleus have impressed so far, but the group didn’t pose much difficulty and they will face stiffer tests if they are to win the World Cup.The group is young and is set to peak when they host the European Championships in 2016; the World Cup may have come just too early for them at this stage and the quarter finals would probably be an achievement. The group hasn’t been plain sailing either; the team switched off defensively when Switzerland nicked two late goals, and they didn’t quite have enough to beat Ecuador. They’re still a team in transition which is developing, and their inexperience could cost them in the long run.
In the absence of Franck Ribery, Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has really stepped up and become the main man for France. In his first major tournament he has proved himself to be amongst the world’s best finishers with three goals so far, which admittedly could’ve been more, and has provided Les Bleus with a natural finisher to finish of their positive play and turn good performances into victories. Principally deployed as the central striker, he has also shown he can play left wing when Olivier Giroud plays through the middle and his versatility allows Didier Deschamps to utilise his talents in numerous formations and positions.
How did they get here?
Nigeria began with a rather dull goalless draw against Iran in a game with very few chances, but won when it mattered with an Odemwingie goal keeping them in the fight while ending Bosnia’s hopes in a narrow 1-0 win. Iran’s defeat to Bosnia in their final match meant Nigeria didn’t need a result against group winners Argentina, but a gutsy display led to a 3-2 defeat in which they promised much. Now they have to hope they can reciprocate such form against France.
The Nigerians are a powerful, pacy outfit who showed their quality in beating Bosnia and running Argentina close. Defensively they have been solid, only conceding to a Messi-led Argentina, and Vincent Enyeama remains strong between the sticks. Going forward they have pace out wide, and make for a strong attacking side; providing they can stave off the advances of France, they can channel the ball to the flanks and hit France at speed, before hopefully finding Emenike in the box to grab a vital goal.
Struggling against Argentina foreshadows probable struggles against France, who have so far impressed at the tournament. Despite Enyeama their defence has struggled when truly tested and, with the form of Benzema, he’s likely to be a handful. The Super Eagles may also struggle to impose themselves in midfield; the likes of Mikel and Onazi are likely to struggle against Matuidi and Pogba, and that will effect their chances of hitting on the counter; France are physical, athletic and likely to be able to keep pace with Stephen Keshi’s men, so they’ll struggle to get in behind.
Often deployed on the right side, Ahmed Musa is shaping up to be the most dangerous player in the Nigeria side. The pacy right winger of the Super Eagles epitomises the side’s quality on the break, and scoring twice against Argentina was no mean feat; he’s hitting goalscoring form at the right time, and will be looking to exploit Patrice Evra’s declining pace to break on the right hand side and threaten Hugo Lloris. The CSKA Moscow man has seven goals for his country, six of which have come in competitive matches, and he will be keen to add to his tally and send Nigeria further into the tournament.
France are composed and comfortable on the ball, and will probably dominate possession as Nigeria look to soak up their attacks before instigating their own. However France will expect to have enough to break them down and outscore their opponents, seeing them comfortably through to the next round. Nigeria should at least have a goal to cheer though, with enough quality in their side going forward to trouble a still young French defence.
France 3-1 Nigeria
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: https://gms.to/1a2u3KU
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.