France v Nigeria – Super Eagles Surpass ExpectationsStats
France v Nigeria
Can France take their impressive group-stage form into the last 16? Or can Nigeria cause an upset?
France were mightily impressive in their opening two group games as they dispatched of Honduras then Switzerland in emphatic fashion. The win against Honduras may have been aided by their opponents being reduced to ten men on the stroke of half-time, but there was nothing fortunate about the 5-2 win over Switzerland in Game 2.
With qualification already secure, manager Dider Deschamps was afforded the luxury of resting some key players for the final group game against Ecuador. A rather damp goalless draw followed, also against 10 men for the best part of the second half, but the French now arrive in the last 16 high in confidence.
Karim Benzema has three goals in the tournament so far, and could have had more after being cruelly denied a fourth of the tournament by the final whistle in the game against Switzerland.
Nigeria, meanwhile, have far surpassed the expectations of yours truly and were, in the end, worthy of their second place finish in Group F. A dire goalless draw with Iran kicked off the campaign, before they upset the odds to defeat Bosnia and then really took the game to Argentina in an exciting 3-2 defeat to close the group stage.
Stephen Keshi’s team have improved game on game throughout the tournament and will need to continue that trend if they are to progress to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Mamadou Sakho could face retrospective action from FIFA after appearing to elbow Ecuador midfielder Oswalso Minda in the face. Yohan Cabaye will return, however, following a suspension that kept him out of the final group game.
Nigeria’s Michael Babatunde is out of the World Cup after breaking his arm in a freak incident when inadvertently blocking teammate Ogenyi Onazi’s shot in the game against Argentina.
Nigeria won the only previous meeting between the two sides, a 1-0 victory courtesy of Joseph Akpala in an international friendly back in June 2009. While France have lost two of their last three World Cup matches against African opponents.
France are strong favourites to progress to the quarter-finals at odds of 1/4 in the To Qualify market and just 1/2 to get the job done in 90 minutes.
But don’t disregard the chances of the Super Eagles making this difficult for their opponents.
Take Nigeria to keep it tight until half time by backing the Draw in the Half-time result market at odds of 5/4.
Both sides have kept two clean sheets each at this World Cup so far, with goals conceded in both nations’ cases at times when they could afford to switch off a little – France when 5-0 up against Switzerland and Nigeria when qualification was pretty much secured in their final group game.
Therefore we should expect a reasonably tight game here and Under 2.5 goals at odds of 5/6 and the No selection in the Both Teams To Score market at odds of 4/6 are both good bets.