There wasn’t a comeback that has been the vogue in this World Cup in the match between France and Nigeria but nonetheless this was an entertaining game that went from end to end. Stephen Keshi prepared his side well and the Super Eagles looked dangerous going forward, causing a lot of grief down their right and making life difficult for the French.
Didier Deschamps opted to have Olivier Giroud spearheading the attack and whilst the French did create a number of chances, the balance of the side was a little upset. France only found their attacking verve after the introduction of Antoine Griezmann, in place of Giroud, and the substitution played a big part in securing a quarterfinal spot for Les Bleus.
1. Attack is the best form of defense
In keeping with the spirit of this World Cup both France and Nigeria did not wait for things to happen and instead took turns to go forward.
France played a fluid formation switching from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 with Olivier Giroud initially acting as the main striker whilst Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema played off the Arsenal forward. The fullbacks Patrice Evra and Mathieu Debuchy linked up with the attack providing width and an outlet for sweeping French moves. Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi took it in turns to join the forwards with the former having probably the best chance of the first half. Pogba started a move passing the ball in the 22nd minute to the busy Valbuena whose cross found the Juventus midfielder. Pogba struck the ball sweetly only to see Vincent Enyeama, who’s had a good tournament, pull off a stunning save.
Nigeria employed a 4-4-1-1 system with Peter Odemwingie playing off Emmanuel Emenike and used their pace and power to good effect. They played the width of the pitch to stretch the game and had the ball in the back of the net when Emenike met Ahmed Musa’s cross but the striker was judged to be marginally offside.
With both sets of fullbacks willing to go forward to join the attack perhaps it’s not surprising that both Nigeria and France had joy down the flanks exploiting the space in the wide areas when the ball was turned over.
2. Should Giroud and Matuidi have seen red cards?
In the 31st minute Olivier Giroud flung his arms with his elbow coming dangerously close to John Obi Mikel’s face. The referee decided to take a lenient view of the incident but it was a reckless thing to do and on another day Giroud could have seen red.
Even luckier to be on the pitch was Blaise Matuidi whose studs in the 55th minute caught the ankle of the unfortunate Ogenyi Onazi who had to be replaced as a result of the challenge. The tackle itself was not malicious and there certainly wasn’t any intent but that does not matter in the laws of the game. There’s an obligation from each player to show duty of care and Matuidi’s tackle though honest was reckless and dangerous. He’s lucky that Mark Geiger was in a forgiving mood as he dished out a yellow for the tackle. Had he produced a red Matuidi would have had little cause for complaint.