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World Cup Preview: France vs Nigeria

by Photo of Matthew Golda

Nigeria looks to thwart the scoring outburst from Les Bleus.

World Cup Preview: France vs Nigeria

When and Where

12 PM ET, Nacional, Brazília, Brazil

How They Got Here

The Frenchman ran through their group, scoring eight goals in their first two matches. In their opening game against Honduras, the French dominated en route to an easy 3-0 victory. The ghosts of their awful 2010 World Cup were beginning to fade. In their second game, they blitzed the Swiss and led 5-0 by the 73rd minute. They went on to win 5-2 and were onto the round of sixteen. Those ghosts now very much in the rearview mirror. They only needed a draw in their final match against Ecuador to win the group. In a lackluster affair, the game was drawn 0-0, eliminating Ecuador and allowing the French to win the group. Although their final game was sort of a dud, it was also fairly meaningless, since France was going to win the group with pretty much any result. They will likely rebound in the round of sixteen.

Nigeria getting to the round of sixteen is a bit of a surprise to some. Their opening game against Iran was a gridlock. Neither squad felt comfortable enough to open up the play and both seemed content just to get a draw and draw is exactly what they did. Their 0-0 draw was the first draw of the World Cup and occurred all the way on the fifth day of games. Who says there isn't scoring in soccer? 

Nigeria's second match was against World Cup newcomer Bosnia-Herzegovina and they defeated the Bosnians 1-0, giving them a solid chance of advancing. They were up against the mighty Argentines in their final match and gave them all they could handle, losing 3-2, with Messi scoring twice for Argentina. That game also saw two goals in the first five minutes, a first in World Cup history. Argentina went up 1-0 on a Messi goal in the 3rd minute, only to have Ahmed Musa knot it up one minute later. Argentina later went up 2-1 on a great free kick take by Messi right before half. Musa did it again, as he tied up the game right in the beginning of the second half. However, heroic effort by Ahmed Musa aside, Argentina was able to make it 3-2 and keep that lead for the remainder of the match. But for Nigeria to play that well against an opponent like Argentina has to be a confidence builder. If they have a repeat performance, France could be in for some trouble.

Key Players

Karim Benzema, France

He has been the star of the tournament for France, as he has three goals, but he also has a habit for disappearing. If he can keep up his play, France is a legitimate threat. He has seemed hungry to score goals, which is evidenced by this disallowed goal as time expired. A hungry forward is a dangerous one and he has the ability to create all sorts of havoc for even the best of back lines. Nigeria wants to play a more rigid and physical type of defense, which makes Benzema's play even more vital. For France, they hope he stays hungry.

Ahmed Musa, Nigeria

Musa's speed was on display against Argentina and he looked nearly unstoppable. He netted both goals for Nigeria in their loss to the Argentines, but it could be a momentum builder for them. France is playing well, but weren't really tested in their group. Musa will look to stretch the French defense and make threatening runs, which he has shown he is capable of doing. He can also just blast it by the keeper. France needs to game plan for this man.

Match Prediction

France wins 2-1.

It's tricky predicting this match. I think the French will win, but this game could turn out to be open with lots of opportunities, like the Argentina/Nigeria match, or it could be a tightly contested affair, with one goal being enough. I'm going to side with something in the middle and say France wins 2-1. Nigeria looked vulnerable allowing goals with the more open play and the French have excelled at countering this tournament. Just ask Switzerland. However, Nigeria looked dangerous last match and could threaten the French if they play well again. Lastly, for the French, Olivier Giroud also needs to play more consistently moving forward. He has looked great at times and indifferent at others. Like with Benzema, the French want Giroud to be hungry as well. 

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