Round of 16: Unconvincing France might be unbeatable if they get out of first gear
The defence was jittery, the midfield could not provide a decent final ball and the strikers were so ineffective, Olivier Giroud was taken off in the 60th minute. The fact that France won the match with an unconvincing display that stuttered and stammered like my French can also mean one thing - they will soar, penetrate and pulverize the opposition should they rediscover their earlier form.
Paul Pogba was restored to the starting eleven and in my opinion had a rather unspectacular match. His technical excellence meant that he was able to bring the ball into the Nigerian half effectively but his decision making in the attacking third was sadly lacking. Valbuena looked the better attacking option with his nippy mobility but the Nigerians held them off with tenacious defending. Wherefore art thou Zizou?
Whenever the French surrendered possession, Nigeria threateningly flickered on occasions. Emmanuel Emenike, tormentor-in-chief against Bosnia, was starting to engage that burst of acceleration and power that has won him an admirer in Jose Mourinho. He stuffed French hearts into baguettes when he timed his run to connect with an in-swinging cross just a step too early. The effort bulged Hugo Lloris’s net but was accurately called offside.
Ahmed Musa, scorer of a brace against Argentina looked lively and Peter Odemwingie, Stoke City’s only ever World Cup goal scorer, gave the French boys from sexier clubs something to think about with his slaloming runs.
Of this impressive trio, the swashbuckling Emenike looks like aces going places and with Mourinho’s sparkling endorsement, the Premier League beckons.
The second half started like a mirror image of the first with fragmented bits of play. Bonjour Antoine Griezmann and Au Revoir Olivier Giroud. Didier Deschamp was clearly losing patience.
Victor Enyeama, Nigeria’s charismatic goalkeeper was having the game of his life, first stopping Pogba’s excellent volley in the first half and then brilliantly thwarting Karim Benzema one-on-one in the second half. And just when you think football rewards you for having a cracker of a match, Enyeama flaps at a French free-kick and dreadfully helps the ball onto Pogba’s gleefully waiting head.
Football in all her unfaithful splendor.
Antoine Griezmann would go on to provide the subtlest of touches onto Valbuena’s fizzling cross, causing the ball to ricochet into the Nigerian net off the unfortunate Joseph Yobo. Game. Set. Match.
Germany is next and the difference between the two teams is that Germany are largely winning due to their splendid brand of football. If the French rediscover their fire, we are in for a treat. If they don’t, rule them out at your own peril.
Jason Jayden Chua loves Spanish football, writes Spanish football, eats Spanish food, is learning Spanish, but is in love with a French girl.