France and Nigeria will go head to head in the Estádio Nacional de Brasilia on Monday for a place in the World Cup quarter finals, with the unpredictable African champions unlikely to be easy pickings for the 1998 winners.
Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria had initially looked like dropping out at the group stage after a dismal 0-0 draw with the unfancied Iran on the opening day of Group F, but after a decent 1-0 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina, and other results going their way, the Africans finished second behind Argentina to set up only their third appearance in the knockout rounds, with the dark horses France their next hurdle in South America.
Powered by the in-form Karim Benzema up top, and with a very strong spine running throughout the team, Les Bleus walked Group E, with a 5-2 win over 6th seeds Switzerland the pick of the games.
Didier Deschamps will be confident of reaching the last eight, but will be wary of the Nigerian front-line, with Argentina almost coming unstuck in the 3-2 win last week, with talisman Leo Messi to thank for getting them out of trouble.
France Team News:
Possible XI – Lloris; Debuchy, Koscienly, Varane, Evra; Cabaye, Valbuena, Matuidi, Pogba; Giroud, Benzema
PSG midfielder Yohan Cabaye comes back into contention after missing the 0-0 draw with Ecuador through suspension, and is expected to start.
Deschamps may plump for two up top against powerful Nigerian defence, while Laurent Koscielny may come in for Mamadou Sakho.
Nigeria Team News:
Possible XI – Enyeama; Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Omeruo, Yobo; Mikel, Onazi, Emenike, Azeez; Odemwingie, Musa
Midfielder Michael Babatunde is out with a broken wrist, while the out-of-favour Victor Moses is an injury doubt.
Nigeria have no other injury worries going into the match.
Soccerlens Prediction: France 3-1 Nigeria
While the Nigerians will not make it easy for them, I expect France to secure passage to the quarters, with Benzema continuing to challenge of the Golden Boot in Brazil.
Key World Cup links:
France World Cup 2014 Team Page.
Nigeria World Cup 2014 Team Page.
World Cup 2014 Matches – Fixtures & Results
World Cup 2014 Player & Team Stats
World Cup 2014 Group Tables
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Our main World Cup 2014 news page.
The Official Soccerlens World Cup Predictor Game.