No African team has managed to qualify past the quarter-finals stage in the World Cup, but based on their last game against Argentina, Nigeria look the most likely side of the two African teams to go furthest in Brazil.
Nigeria qualified through to the round of 16 with a win, draw and loss apiece – scoring three goals and conceding three. While that stat reveals their solid defense, it equally highlights their impotency in front of goal. However, their fast-paced wingers and aggressive play will definitely work in their favor.
John Obi Mikel and Onazi will need to be at their best if they to break down play and allow Nigerians the rare chance to dictate play throughout. As inevitable as it may be, sending the ball to front men Emmanuel Emenike, Ahmed Musa and Odemwingie may bring them the goals. However, they need to involve other players in the game or risk being configured all too easily.
However, with keeper Enyeama solidly marshaling his defense, coupled with France’s attacking style of play, Nigeria can be silently confident of punishing France on the counter.
Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi does have some injury problems ahead of the clash. Midfielders Michael Babatunde and Victor Moses look unlikely to make the tie. The former is nursing a freak arm injury while the later is yet to return to full fitness. In the case of Moses failing to make the team, Michael Uchebo could be called up.
Meanwhile the once fallible French squad has been transformed into a spirited, gutsy, counter-attacking and flamboyant side. Les Blues have been impressive in the group stage, they managed to put eight past their opposition, conceding only two. And with the likes of Evra, Valbuena and Cabaye all rested against Ecuador, they will fancy their chances. In Benzema and Giroud, France have plan A and B to rely in their arsenal of tactics to outwit Nigeria.
French manager Didier Deschamps will however have to shuffle his back four after Liverpool and Arsenal defenders Mamadou Sakho and Laurent Koscielny are struggling with injuries. This should see Eliaquim Mangala and rapidly rising youngling, Raphael Varane, deputise in their absence.
Further up field, Paul Pogba looks likely to start ahead of Moussa Sissoko, while Benzema will lead the men upfront.
France: (4-3-3) Lloris; Debuchy,Magala, Varane, Evra; Cabaye , Matuidi, Pogba; Valbuena, Griezmann, Benzema.
Nigeria: (4-3-3) Enyeama; Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Omeruo, Yobo; Mikel, Onazi, Uchebo; Emenike, Odemwingie, Musa.