It will be Europe vs Africa in the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. Group E winners France will tangle with Group F runners-up Nigeria in Brasilia, to see who will reach the quarterfinals.
France topped Group E after victories over Honduras and Switzerland, while playing to a scoreless draw with Ecuador. Nigeria snuck into the knockout stage by defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina, drawing Iran while losing to Argentina. This will be their first ever meeting at the World Cup.
The French have lined up in a 4-3-3 formation in their Group Stage matches, so don’t expect any changes in that regard from manager Didier Deschamps.
Karim Benzema has been the best player for Les Bleus. The Real Madrid forward has scored three times in the tournament, and has been a menace inside the 18-yard box. Expect Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Valbuena to join Benzema up in attack. Both scored against Switzerland and were given a rest against Ecuador. They should be more than fit for this fixture.
Another player that has shown his worth at this tournament is Blaise Matuidi. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder has been a creative force for France, with his slick passing and strong technical ability. Matuidi is entering the prime of his career and will be heard from in the future.
Paul Pogba is another talismanic figure in the midfield. The Juventus midfielder is skilled with a flair for the spectacular. At only 21, Pogba is only going to get better. He will have to be careful though, as he does have a yellow card to his name.
Yohan Cabaye is the likely holding midfielder. The Paris Saint-Germain stalwart is adept at set pieces as well as providing quality service. Cabaye is sitting on a yellow card though so he will need to be in control of his emotions.
The back four have had an excellent tournament for France. Left back Patrice Evra has been solid along the flank at this World Cup, after a somewhat disappointing season for Manchester United. Mathieu Debuchy has patrolled the right back position with satisfactory results. Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho are patrolling the centre with aplomb. If this unit continues to hold the line, France could have a very successful run in Brazil.
Hugo Lloris has had a rather easy time for France. The Tottenham Hotspurs keeper has recorded two clean sheets while not being very busy between the sticks. Lloris has made a few timely saves when called upon, but for the most part he hasn’t had much to do.
Nigeria have lined up in a 4-4-2 in their last two matches and they did have more success in that formation, than the 4-3-3 look they offered against Iran.
Peter Odemwingie and Emmanuel Emenike are the likely partnership up front. Odemwingie scored Nigeria’s lone goal in their victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he’s been the Super Eagles most dangerous player. Emenike needs to find his scoring boots. The Fenerbache striker has yet to find the back of the net, and failure to do so could see Nigeria out of the World Cup.
Ahmed Musa was terrific in Nigeria’s match against Argentina, scoring both goals in the Super Eagles 3-2 loss. The CSKA Moscow attacking midfielder has become the talismanic figure in the midfield, with a flair for goals.
John Obi Mikel hasn’t been at his best at this tournament. The Chelsea midfielder has yet to make an impact for his country and if he continues his invisible ways, Nigeria will be out of the competition. Michel Babatunde and Ogenyi Onazi are the other two midfielders, expected to be on the team sheet.
The back four was solid in their first two fixtures, but showed some holes in their fortress against Argentina. Joseph Yobo, Juwon Oshaniwa, Efa Ambrose and Kenneth Omeruo are expected to patrol the penalty area but will need to be better than they were against Argentina.
Vincent Enyeama is expected to start between the sticks. The Lille keeper does have two clean sheets to his name, but does have a tendency to be awkward in the net.
France have impressed in this tournament while Nigeria are fortunate to be this far. This doesn’t bode well for the Super Eagles. The French have shown no signs of melting down or infighting that has plagued Les Bleus the last several International tournaments. The French have the advantage in midfield, up front and at the back. Nigeria have never advanced past the Round of 16 and they won’t do it here. France wins 3-0 and will move on to the quarterfinals.
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