Nigeria vs France preview: Super Eagles must frustrate Les Blues' exciting football
On Monday afternoon it will be one of the most important game in the careers of the Super Eagles and French players, Nigeria will face France in the 2nd round of the Brazil 2014 World Cup in a game France have been tipped as the favorites to win.
France have been fantastic in this tournament especially in their second group game , they qualified as group leaders from Group E in the 1st round with a 3-0 victory over Honduras, an emphatic 5-2 victory over Switzerland and a 0-0 draw against Ecuador who played most of the game with 10-men after Manchester United's winger Valencia was given a straight red card.
The Super Eagles on the other hand did not have a smooth sail, as they qualified as runners up behind World Cup favorites Argentina with a boring 0-0 draw against stubborn Iran, a 1-0 victory over first timers Bosnia and a slim 3-2 loss to Messi inspired Argentina.
Reviewing the performance and play of both teams in the group stages, France are favorites to win on Monday but this is football, anything can happen.
Taking a look at the French style of play, all their 8 goals were scored inside the box with one penalty against Honduras. It was obvious in the Honduras game how they struggled to break the Americans down and finding it difficult to find momentum until they were awarded a penalty by the Brazilian referee.
The Super Eagles have played an open game in this tournament and Vincent Enyeama has been consistent conceding just one goal in three matches and making 17 saves while the tournament average is 9. The back four have had to make 48 clearances, with the team attempting 62 tackles and also 6 blocks.
With the above defensive stats, Nigeria have had to defend a lot in this tournament and this is due to the attacking nature of the team as Oshaniwa and Ambrose join the attack at every opportunity.
The Super Eagles play a 4-2-3-1 formation with Mikel and Onazi playing as the double pivot shileding the back four and linking play with the attack but they have both been average if not poor.
Mikel have been poor defensively in the middle especially in the last game against Argentina though one would note he was one yellow card away from suspension, Onazi is always out of position as he likes to jump into tackles.
Though Onazi was disciplined in the last game against Argentina which is a good development, both Onazi and Mikel will need to step up their game as they face a strong French midfield of Pogba, Cabaye and Matuidi.
Playing an open game against France the way the Super Eagles have played in the group stages could be suicidal as the counter-attacking movement of Giroud, Benzenma, and Valbuena will cause our defense a lot of problems just the way the strong Swiss side were thrashed by Les Blues.
Stephen Keshi will need to find a solution to the defensive structure of the team and keep it tight defensively.
The Eagles must frustrate the French the way Honduras and Ecuador did with break on the counter.
Luckily we have the players to execute the counter attacking play, Babatunde have been ruled out of the rest of the tournament, hopefully Moses will be fit enough to play alongside Emenike, Osaze, and the in form Musa.
Nigeria love to attack, and this have been proven with the official stats at the World Cup, the Super Eagles have made a total number of 42 attempts compared to the tournament average which is 35.2 and have attempted 57 crosses.
With these stats and the four attackers mentioned above, Nigeria pose a great threat to the French back four but the French will relish the challenge to break up play and counter attack in numbers if we our defenders do not improve.
I doubt if Keshi will be cautious in his approach, but this is the knockout stages and a team will have to analyze the weakness of his opponents and counter it. Taking it into extra time won't be a bad idea also :), just saying.
A counter attacking set up will help the ambition of the Super Eagles as we look to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time in history.
- This will be the second international meeting between France and Nigeria. The Super Eagles won the previous meeting 1-0 in Saint Etienne back in June 2009.
- France have lost two of their last three World Cup matches against African nations (2002 vs Senefal and 2010 vs South Africa).
- All of France's goals during this World Cup have come from inside the box.
- Nigeria have scored a goal in all but one of their previous 10 World Cup finals matches against European sides.
- Les Blues attempted more shots at goal (50, excl. blocked) than any other side during the 2014 World Cup group stages.
- Nigerian Goal keeper Vincent Enyeama kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper during the 2013-2014 French Ligue 1 season for Lille.
- On the last five occasions that France have progressed past round 1 in the World Cup, they have reached the semi-final stage (1958,1982,1986,1998 and 2006)