A heavily favored French team will be going up against Nigeria team that is facing an internal turmoil that haunted them in 2010.
After crushing Group E, France is poised to advance in the quarterfinal stage of the tournament to face either Algeria or Germany but the Nigerians are no push-overs. They gave favorite Argentina and Lionel Messi a lot of headaches in their Group F matchup and eked out a win over Bosnia-Herzegovina and a scoreless draw against Iran.
Their midfielder Yohan Cabaye seems to think so and is not taking their opponent lightly.
"They're a good team, they caused Argentina problems. They are powerful, quick up front and hardworking in the midfield," Cabaye said of Nigeria's 3-2 loss to Lionel Messi and company. "They play with a lot of energy."
A lot of energy si what is expected from Nigeria given its dangerous strikers in Ahmed Musna, Peter Odemwingie and Emmanuel Emenike. They employ a spread attack and pace that wears out defense by relentless assaults from all angles and fronts. However some questions about their team stability rose up with the players' boycott of practice over the weekend due to reportedly some salary issues.
France is no stranger to said controversy as it had faced the same music in 2010 where they disappointed and bowed early due internal conflicts of their own. This time, they are determined to put the past behind them and move on to the latter and possibly the championship stages of the World Cup.
The Les Blue's offense has been heavily featuring Karim Benzema who has now tallied a total of three goals in the tourney and along with midfielders Paul Pogba, Mathieu Valbuena, and Yohan Cabaye, they use a four-pronged offense that aims to concentrate on controlling the ball and limiting attacks from the Super Eagles.
This will certainly be the key to the matchup, the battle of the midfielders. With France's attacks heavily relying on a coordinated movement across the field, the opposition midfielders will have plenty on their plate to limit the opportunities of France to advance. This is a two sided sword as their midfield attack can leave a susceptible defense that can be exposed by a determined counter-attack.
All in all this is still France's game to lose but do not count out the pesky Nigerians just yet as the tournament and the players fill out the last cast of the 2014 World Cup.
Projected lineups (left to right)
France (4-3-3): Hugo Lloris; Patrice Evra, Mamadou Sakho, Raphaël Varane, Mathieu Debuchy; Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba; Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema, Mathieu Valbuena.
Nigeria (4-2-3-1): Vincent Enyeama; Juwon Oshaniwa, Godfrey Oboabona, Kenneth Omeruo, Efe Ambrose; John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi; Ahmed Musa, Ramon Azeez, Peter Odemwingie; Emmanuel Emenike.