France and Nigeria both had done better than their performance in the last World Cup; both teams were knocked out in the group stages in 2010. France were hoping to emulate their march to the final like they had done in 2006, while Nigeria were just hoping to reach the quarterfinal stages for the first time. The teams were more or less even in the first half; their difference in rankings was almost negated. Paul Pogba stood out for the French, he was in a league of his own, displaying a level of maturity which only a seasoned professional can display. On the other side Victor Enyeama, the Nigerian goalkeeper was doing his best to keep the French at bay. It took the French till the 80th minute to score as Pogba headed in from a corner, an own goal by Joseph Yobo in the 90th minute sealed the victory for France.
Here are the 5 talking points from the game
A World Cup for the goalkeepers:
Keylar Navas, Guillermo Ochoa and Victor Enyeama have all shone for their respective countries. Normally all of us would only talk about the great attacking prowess that has been on display in Brazil but a brilliant story developing is about the goalkeepers. Enyeama was at his best between the posts. He saved brilliantly from a Pogba shot early on and was composed during the game. One moment of indecision cost the team when Enyeama could not grasp onto the ball from a corner and Pogba gleefully headed France into the lead. Apart from that, Enyeama has been yet another top keeper in this World Cup.
Pogba was on song:
Pogba has been wowing Juventus supporters for a couple of years now. No one really doubted his skills but against Nigeria, he was a class apart. Pogba was commanding the midfield like Patrick Viera did a few years back. Pogba not only is a tough midfield general like Viera but he does get into great scoring positions, which adds another aspect to his game. At only 21 years of age, Pogba has time on his hand; the sky is the limit for him.
A substitution changed the game:
Until the 70th minute there was really nothing to choose between the teams, France then replaced the tired looking Olivier Giroud with Antoine Griezmann and boy did it work. The team looked much sharper in attack with Griezmann in their side and had laid siege to the Nigerian goal, hitting them with attack after attack. Cabaye had a shot cannon off the post during the barrage and it was a few minutes later that Pogba scored the first goal. Griezmann also contributed for the 2nd goal when under pressure from him, Yobo turned in a low cross into the Nigerian goal to give France a 2-0 lead.
The row over bonuses:
The Ghanaian and Nigerian teams both have had issues regarding World Cup appearance fees and needed last minute interventions to solve this crisis. The Nigerian players had also boycotted a training session regarding the unpaid bonuses, the money was provided to them and they did resume training following that but this farce probably did affect some players mentally. This is the sort of distraction that is not needed during the World Cup and all the people involved should try and ensure such things don’t spring up during a World Cup; it leaves a sour taste behind.
Could the French do it?:
When France qualified for the World Cup by beating Ukraine in a two legged play-off, no one gave them a chance of doing much in the World Cup, especially after the implosion during the 2010 World Cup. Didier Deschamps seems to have other plans, with France putting up good performances so far, especially the mauling they provided to Switzerland. France have been unbeaten since they defeated Ukraine 3-0 in the 2nd leg of their playoff, if they continue playing like this they could easily repeat their heroics from 2006.