Les Bleus withstood a spirited display from the Africans to eventually triumph thanks to a strong showing late on in the second half. Three takeaways from an intriguing clash!COMMENT
By Teo Teng Kiat | Deputy Editor, Goal Singapore
When Nigeria shot off the blocks against France in their Round of 16 tie, many onlookers had a genuine case to wonder whether the Africans would pull off a shock World Cup victory. The Super Eagles looked good and were backed by the flying Vincent Enyeama in goal, which made an upset seem a good possibility.
However, the French eventually showed they were made of sterner stuff and when the going got tough, they got going and dispatched the Nigerians without much fuss after the green shirts ran out of steam. Allez Les Bleus!
|Youth wins it for France
|Two of France's biggest young talents came through for their country on the biggest stage of all, as both Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann played crucial roles in the victory.
The former was dropped after their first game but played his way back into contention to start his second match in a role. He was arguably France's best player in a first half where Nigeria had a stronger hold on proceedings, nearly giving them the lead with a thumping volley that was well saved.
Griezmann also showcased his potential to the world when he came off the bench to turn in a superb impact display. The left winger's introduction allowed Karim Benzema to be shifted back into the centre of attack and that immediately improved France's offensive play. Within eight minutes, Benzema saw a shot cleared off the line.
The Real Sociedad player provided genuine width and changed the game by altering the dynamics of the game, as France stretched Nigeria thin with the half wearing on. Griezmann's fresh legs also saw him react quickest to a late cross, forcing an own goal to seal victory.
The talented duo showed why they are highly regarded and France coach Didier Deschamps will be glad he has them in his squad.
|Profligacy costs Nigeria
|Nigeria can largely blame their attack for the failure to get through this tie, as they had the better of the opening exchanges against France.
The plan to attack their opponents down the flanks with pace and trickery was proving to be a good one, especially down the right against a suspect Patrice Evra. But for all the good work they did getting the ball into the box, only once did they find the back of the net - through Emanuel Emenike, whose offside goal was the closest he'd ever come to scoring in this tournament.
The likes of Peter Odemwingie, Victor Moses, Emenike and Ahmed Musa have just not been good enough in front of goal and Nigeria paid for their profligacy with defeat.
|Les Bleus fight on
Well, those minds will have been put at ease a bit more with the eventual victory, which proved that Les Bleus have added steel to the flair in their game. The defence held on stolidly against the fast-paced Nigerians without ever being reallly threatened, while Deschamps' variety in attacking options was shown with Griezmann's impact.
While both goals did not result from beautiful, sweeping moves, they were evidence that France have the ability to fight on and grind out results when needed - something that hasn't always been associated with them.
Such strength and spirit, as already shown by the likes of the Netherlands, will be crucial to their chances of going further in big international tournaments like this World Cup.