A two-hour thriller ended in disappointment for the Flying Eagles, despite the African side seeing much of the ball and missing a string of chances
France booked their place in their first-ever U20 World Cup semi-final following a thrilling 3-2 extra-time victory over Nigeria to set up an all-European tie with Portugal.
The game started at breakneck speed, and the French signalled their intent to erase the memories of their performance against Ecuador, with Kolodziejczak firing in an early header that went narrowly wide.
Nigeria, however, the top scorers in the competition, held a threat of their own. A courageous block from Koulibaly stopped a ferocious strike from Musa putting the African side ahead, before the Metz youngster was the hero again, taking Musa’s cross off Kayode’s feet.
The first-half fizzled out after the bright start, but the second period got off to a flyer. Alexandre Lacazette, on as a substitute, superbly beat the offside trap to latch on to Grenier’s through ball, finishing emphatically through Paul’s legs.
With 40 minutes remaining, Nigeria needed a firm response. Ajagun squeezed in a shot, which took a hefty deflection, drifting agonisingly wide of Ligali’s goal.
Fofana missed a one-on-one opportunity to put his side into a two-goal lead, before Nigeria counterattacked, with Musa missing a glorious chance with a header after Ligali had come off his line.
The run of Nigerian near-misses continued; Nwafor curled a well-struck effort wide of Ligali’s goal, but they were unable to keep up their momentum. Good link-up play between Kakuta and Lacazette saw the latter miss a great chance due in part to a brilliantly-timed challenge from Suswam, and the Lyon man was made to regret his wastefulness.
With merely seconds remaining in injury-time, an optimistic flick into the box from Nwafor found Ejike, who headed home to make it 1-1.
With the wind in their sails, Nigeria started extra-time with renewed motivation. Azeez drilled in a shot from 30 yards, which was beaten away by Ligali, before Emmanuel dragged a good opportunity wide from the edge of the box.
Out of nowhere, however, France took the lead. Fofana received the ball 22 yards from goal before sending in a sublime lob over Dami Paul. Seconds later, France doubled their advantage.
Kakuta found an unmarked Lacazette who rounded Paul, before finishing from a narrow angle to net his fourth goal of the competition.
Incredibly, Nigeria found a way back into the game. Emmanuel cut in from the right and fired in a shot against the post. The ball fell to Nwofor, who shifted the ball onto his left-foot, before striking goalwards. His strike deflected off Ejike, who was standing a yard off the line, and bounced into the net with just nine minutes remaining.
Nigeria's efforts proved futile though as France were happy to run down the clock, while Nigeria were physically drained and incapable of conjuring up a second unlikely comeback.