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France turn corner vs Nigeria

Mark HallamJune 30, 2014

France have reached the next round of the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Nigeria in Brasilia. Both French goals came from corners and defensive blackouts, an unfitting end to Nigeria's gallant fight.

WM 2014 Achtelfinale Frankreich Nigeria
Image: Reuters

French coach Didier Deschamps opted for a similar system to his group stage riot against the Swiss, picking both Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema as forward players from the start. The recipe brought considerably less success against the Super Eagles, however, with Nigeria making much of the running in the first period in Brasilia. Benzema struggled to get into the game in his roving attacking role.

Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike was the first to find the net in Brasilia, but his goal was disallowed for offisde as he stood just slightly in front of the last defender. At the other end, France's best first-half chance fell to defensive playmaker Paul Pogba. Pogba's volley, following some nice interplay with Mathieu Valbuena, was sharply saved by Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal. Right-back Mathieu Debuchy couldn't hit the target with the other top first-half chance for Les Bleus.

Nigeria made further chances going forward in the second half, not least from Peter Odemwingie, who forced captain Hugo Lloris into a sharp save from distance.

WM 2014 Achtelfinale Frankreich Nigeria
Enyeama had an outstanding game, until it all went wrongImage: Reuters

Deschamps dips into bench

But France began to take control as the match wore on, not least after Deschamps replaced Olivier Giroud with winger Antoine Griezmann, allowing Benzema to take up a more advanced role in attack.

Benzema and Griezmann immediately combined in a one-two to create a golden chance, but Enyeama got a touch on Benzema's shot, allowing victor Moses time to clear off the Nigerian goal line. Moments later France came within inches twice in five seconds: first Benzema was denied off the line, and then Yohann Cabaye rattled the crossbar with a follow-up shot from distance.

Enyeama, Nigeria's second-most capped player after captain on the night Joseph Yobo, again displayed quick reflexes to deny a Benzema header with around 10 minutes left in the match.

But from the following corner, some of the goalie's hard work came unstuck. Enyeama came to claim the corner but couldn't catch it, only palming the ball with his left hand. Paul Pogba headed the redirected ball into Nigeria's open goal, putting France ahead.

In stoppage time, with Nigeria starting to throw caution to the wind, France caught the Super Eagles cold at another corner. This time, the French played the ball short, perhaps expecting to hold the ball up by the corner flag. But as the chance to cross opened up, Valbuena sought to find Griezmann in the box. Captain Joseph Yobo beat Griezmann to the ball, only to turn it into his own net, sealing Nigeria's fate.

France will face the winner of the later game, either Algeria or Germany, in the quarter-finals. Algeria are the last African side standing in a World Cup in which Asia has already been eliminated.