Eagles seeks upset against France

If bookmakers predic­tion is anything to go by, France is the fa­vourite side to advance into the quarter finals in today’s encounter with Nigeria. But the World Cup has proved to be a fertile land for upsets in football.

Experts opinion easily sway in favour of France on account of the team’s performance in the group stage, where the “Les Bleus” appeared a free scoring side until the last match of Group E.

France scored eight goals in two matches and conceded just two. France also had more attempts at goal, 62, in their three matches than any other team at the World Cup.

In contrast, Nigeria scored three and conceded the same number of goals. But the hopes of the multi­racial squad of France are hinged on Karim Benzema who has had three goals and two assists.

But since winning the World Cup on home soil 16 years ago, France has been a struggling side, swinging often from good to bad. More importantly is the fact that in all tour­naments since France ‘98, the Les Bleus has often drawn an African opposi­tion.

The results have been alternating. Consider France’s 3-1 defeat of South Africa in 1998 was followed by a surprise 0-1 loss to debutants, Senegal four years later. But in 2006, France beat a disorganized Togo side 2-0 but slumped 1-2 to South Africa four years ago.

Today’s clash is the fifth consecutive instance of France facing an African side. Before now, Nigeria and France had met just once in a friendly match five years ago in Saint Etienne, which the visiting Nigerian side won, courtesy of the goal by Joseph Akpala.

Only Goalkeeper Vin­cent Enyeama and Osaze Odemwingie remain in the Super Eagles’ squad that performed the feat. Among those still in the current French side that played in the June 2, 2009 friendly match are Patrice Evra, Loic Remmy and Karim Benzema.

The Super Eagles are aiming to reach their first World Cup quarter-final. They have twice made the last 16, in 1994 and 1998. On both occasions they were beaten in the second round by European opposition, Italy in ‘94 and Denmark in ‘98.

France may not be judged by the goalless draw with Colombia in the last group game.  Coach Deschamps rested most of the top players since the team had already secured qualification.

“We have qualified, so one must be happy about that,” said Benzema. “It was a tough, tough match, and although we had a lot of success in front of goal in our previous games this time we came across a team who caused usprob­lems on a physical level.

But today, the French will be at full strength and fresh for this match, as Pa­trice Evra, Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Valbuena all rested in the last group match against Ecuador.

France has a solid midfield, but they are an attacking one that pushes forward and may play into the hands of Nigeria. The Super Eagles have a very pacy squad and play aggressively on counter-attack.

Ahmed Musa already had a taste of the French favour having played against the under 20 side at Colombia 2011. Also, Vincent Enyeama will have his fellow Lille club mate, Antonio Mavuba to contend with.

Some of the Nigerian players are also accus­tomed with most of the French squad having either confronted them in the European field or even as team mates. The trio of Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sisoko and Loic Remy are club mates of Shola Ameobi at Newcastle.

In Liverpool, Vic­tor Moses has Mamadou Sakho as team mate. French star,

Benzema believed France are in for another thorough examination of their qualities against Ni­geria in the Round of 16, after their rugged encoun­ter with Ecuador.


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