France vs Nigeria match report World Cup 2014: Paul Pogba gets spluttering France going but Nigerians cry foul

France 2 Nigeria 0

Estadio Mane Garrincha

It only lasted for a few minutes but suddenly France rediscovered their attacking verve and Nigeria succumbed.

Les Blues coach Didier Deschamps had spoken in the build-up of the difficulty in replicating group stage form amid the tense atmosphere of knockout football and his prophecy proved right.

France laboured for long periods with Karim Benzema shunted out to the left to accommodate Olivier Giroud as the focal point of their attack and it was only when the Arsenal striker was withdrawn after 63 minutes that Deschamps’ side sprang into life.

Although Mathieu Valbuena did his best to kickstart France with frequent ingenuity from the right, there was a better shape to France’s forward play once Antoine Griezmann was introduced out wide in an attacking trio, with Benzema reverting to the middle.

They exerted sufficient pressure to force passage into the quarter-finals but still needed an awful mistake from the otherwise excellent Vincent Enyeama to break the deadlock, allowing the outstanding Paul Pogba to convert a simple 79th-minute header.

Nigeria were crestfallen thereafter and France’s second goal – an unfortunate stoppage-time own goal from captain Joseph Yobo after Griezmann missed his kick – was harsh on the Super Eagles, who had threatened to cause an upset in Brasilia with a defiant display.

History was against them having never been beyond this stage at a World Cup but they enjoyed the support of the locals, who chanted “Ni-ger-ia” throughout the game and frequently whistled France’s patient play.

Luck was also not on their side as Giroud was alleged to have elbowed John Obi Mikel in the first half and Blaise Matuidi should have been sent off for an awful challenge on Ogenyi Onazi, who was carried off. At that stage, the game was goalless and Nigeria were in the ascendancy.


Coach Stephen Keshi vented his fury afterwards, citing several tough tackles he believed were insufficiently punished. “I am not happy with the officiating because Onazi, on two occasions, he had a very bad tackle and nothing was done by the referee. He is out now probably for weeks. I think the referee was just…for me, I think he was biased though. This is the first time I will speak about the referee in my life as a coach but it wasn’t good.”

Whatever misfortune Nigeria suffered, they also failed to maximise several promising positions and lacked France’s class in the final third, when it eventually materialised.

“It is very difficult to control every aspect of the game from the first to the last minute,” said Deschamps. “I have not seen any team doing that. We had a very strong last half an hour with more dynamism, more speed and the Nigerian team slowed down a bit. That allowed us to use space and create chances. We use short passes and it worked.”

The conditions were not the stifling ones anticipated with sporadic cloud cover ensuring only intermittent exposure to the worst of the lunchtime heat, but in any case France were refreshed by six changes from the under-strength side that drew with Ecuador in their final group game.

Yohan Cabaye returned to anchor the midfield from suspension, while Patrice Evra, Valbuena and Raphaël Varane were among those to come in, the latter replacing Mamadou Sakho who was named on the substitutes’ bench due to a thigh problem.

Nigeria brought back Chelsea winger Victor Moses for Michel Babatunde in Keshi’s only change from a team whose preparations were complicated by a row over bonus payments at this tournament.

Joseph Yobo's late own goal made it 2-0 Joseph Yobo's late own goal made it 2-0 Far from proving a distraction, the resolution ultimately determined by Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan appeared something of an inspiration as they started brightly against a French side lacking their group-stage  fluidity.

France benefitted from two first-half offside decisions. The first ensured Nigeria had a goal disallowed when striker Emmanuel Emenike was rightly adjudged to have turned home Ahmed Musa’s cross from an offside position. Moments later, Benzema missed his kick when clean through from Valbuena’s pass but the assistant referee’s flag saved his embarrassment.

Pogba was not always making the right decisions in advanced areas but the 21-year-old was beginning to drive France forward from central midfield. After exchanging passes with Valbuena, a fierce right-foot volley drew a good save from Enyeama.

More good work from Pogba and Valbuena created an opening for Mathieu Debuchy but the Newcastle defender could only slice a tame effort wide from 18 yards.

Read more: Giroud accused of elbowing Mikel
Comment: Evra is still the weak link for France

After the interval, Nigeria began to take control but without threatening Hugo Lloris, aside from when he was required to beat away Peter Odemwingie’s left-foot shot.

With Onazi absent and Griezmann’s invigorating presence, France found their stride. Griezmann slipped a ball through to Benzema whose shot rebounded off him via Enyeama and crept goalwards only for Moses to clear it off the line.

Benzema then flashed a shot across goal that required another desperate intervention before Cabaye struck the crossbar with a superb volley.

Having operated with a degree of comfort, Nigeria were now on the rack. Enyeama tipped over a Benzema header from Valbuena’s free-kick but then he could only palm the subsequent corner onto  Pogba’s head and the Juventus midfielder was left with a  simple finish at the back post.

Yobo’s own goal under pressure from Griezmann added a veneer to the scoreline but Deschamps has options to consider ahead of Friday’s game. The tough competition for places is, however, not yet threatening France’s squad unity.

Pogba said: “There is a lot of solidarity in our group. This is the strength of our group.  I was man of the match today but I wish I could share it with everybody.”

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn