BRASILIA – 2nd rd: France 2, Nigeria 0
—- France, struggling to survive somehow throughout the first half, stepped up their game in the second to strike twice in quick succession and reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the third time in five tournaments.
Didier Deschamps’s men were world champions in 1998 and runners-up in 2006 but fell far below those standards for an hour’s play in the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha.
Nigeria enjoyed the better of the first half exchanges. They approached the French penalty box with direction and creative confidence, testing fullbacks Mathieu Debuchy and Patrice Evra in particular with the pace of Musa and Victor Moses.
Peter Odemwingie roamed threateningly just behind Emmanuel Emenike to keep the pressure on keeper Hugo Lloris and Emenike had a ‘goal’ ruled out narrowly for offside
Even so, it was Nigeria keeper Victor Enyeama at the other end who had to produce the finest save when he battered away a close-range volley from Paul Pogba, bursting through the centre.
France, so impressive in the group, appeared muddled up front with confusion between Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema and they also suffered from the reluctance of their forwards to track back when Nigeria launched their wing raids.
However, midway through the second half France stepped up the tempo and took command.
Victor Moses cleared a Benzema shot off the line then Yohan Cabaye volleyed against the bar.
Finally, in the 79th minute, Pogba headed home after Enyeama flapped and missed a left-wing corner from Mathieu Valbuena and then, in the first minute of stoppage time, Benzema crossed hard after a short corner and veteran Joseph Yobo diverted the ball into his own net.
Not the ideal way to celebrate on becoming Nigeria’s most-experienced World Cup defender with 10matches to his credit.
There will be no more for the 34-yer-old since it’s France who go on to the quarter-finals where they will face Algeria or Germany on Saturday in Maracana .