The Super Eagles fell once more in the second round and saw their World Cup hopes come to an end against France on Monday
It was a bitter end to Nigeria’s World Cup run in Brasilia as the Super Eagles fell 2-0 to France, with a Paul Pogba header and an unfortunate own goal from centurion Joseph Yobo accounting for Stephen Keshi’s side late on in Brasilia.
The African champions were bidding to reach their first quarter-final, but injury to Ogenyi Onazi in the second half saw them lose control of midfield to Les Bleus, who dominated there after.
Vincent Enyeama, otherwise magnificent once more, failed to deal with a corner kick, thereby allowing Paul Pogba to head what was effectively a fatal blow to Nigeria.
Minutes later, under pressure from substitute Antoine Griezmann, Yobo, who made his 100th appearance for his country, inadvertently diverted a Mathieu Valbuena cross into the corner of his own net.
For so long it had looked so good for the Super Eagles as they took the game to France early, dominating possession before they had an Emmanuel Emenike goal disallowed for a marginal, though legitimate, offside call.
France’s charge was led from midfield, with youngster Pogba forcing a save of the highest order from Nigeria’s No.1 after making a characteristically forceful run through the middle. The Juventus man edged the battle with John Obi Mikel for much of the game.
Indeed, Pogba proved pivotal as it was the former world champions who held on for victory as Nigeria conceded the midfield following Garbiel Reuben’s introduction for the injured Onazi.
Stephen Keshi’s brave side collapsed amid the renewed energy of the French after Olivier Giroud made way for Griezmann.
Keshi | There will be questions asked of his leadership
They had their chances though, with Peter Odemwingie and Emenike both working Hugo Lloris.
But wingers Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses looked tame in attack, with the former unable to revive the form that saw him score twice against Argentina.
Musa’s free kicks were also a let down as they failed to trouble a French defence manned by Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny.
Even though the score line looked one sided, the match was widely open for most of 70 minutes until Nigeria collapsed. While Didier Deschamps’ men make their way forward in the competition, there will be questions asked of the Super Eagles’ campaign.
Financial wrangling after qualifying for the second round sent out vibes that it was a side who had already conceded the game before playing it. The decision of Keshi to refuse calling up some big-name players will also creep into conversations in coming days.
Would things have been different if Keshi had taken a more experienced squad?
Whatever the backlash, it is important to look at a side that reached the second round after 16 years, despite the strong odds against them.
Nigeria can be rest assured that they have a large and strong pool of players to choose from in future and should see this as a learning curve.
However for players like Yobo and Odemwingie, this might be the last major championship for them.
They have been worthy servants of their country and must now leave the stage for a younger generation to take over.
Time to build for the future.