Wed, Jul 02, 2014 - Page 20 News List

WORLD CUP: France come alive at last moment to defeat Nigeria

STILL SUPER:Though they lost the tie, the Super Eagles won over fans with a superb display and coach Keshi said the support made Nigeria feel like a second Brazil squad

AFP, BRASILIA

France midfielder Paul Pogba, center, is swarmed by forward Karim Benzema, top, and other teammates after scoring in their round-of-16 FIFA World Cup match against Nigeria at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia on Monday.

Photo: AFP

A Paul Pogba header and a Joseph Yobo own-goal saw France edge Nigeria 2-0 in a hard-fought contest in Brasilia on Monday and put them in the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals.

Pogba broke the deadlock in the 79th minute, nodding into an empty net after Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who plays for LOSC Lille Metropole, failed to collect a corner.

It was a cruel moment for Enyeama, but rewarded a barrage of France pressure sparked by the introduction of Antoine Griezmann, who forced Yobo into the own-goal in injury-time.

Les Bleus next face Germany at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

The loss left African Cup of Nations holders Nigeria still waiting to sample the last eight at a World Cup, after exiting in their first knockout-phase match at the tournament since the 1998 competition in France.

The Super Eagles nonetheless departed to the sound of warm applause from the fans in the cavernous Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, who allied themselves with Nigeria’s cause from the off.

“We had a very good game, we’re just unlucky to have lost,” Nigeria coach Keshi said. “The scoreline does not reflect the game.”

On the crowd support his side received, he said: “Every stadium we’ve played in so far, the Brazilians have been wonderful. It’s like there are two teams from Brazil at this World Cup.”

While France started purposefully, their final ball frequently let them down, which handed Nigeria opportunities to use their pace on the counterattack.

Emmanuel Emenike thought he had put Nigeria ahead in the 19th minute when he deftly prodded in an in-swinging cross from Ahmed Musa, but the offside flag allowed French hearts to slow to normal.

France looked more threatening when they brought the recalled Mathieu Valbuena into the game and the Olympique de Marseille midfielder teed up Pogba for a volley midway through the first half, it took a stunning reflex save from Enyeama to keep the game scoreless.

Another intelligent pass from Valbuena then gave Mathieu Debuchy a sight of goal, but the Newcastle United rightback drilled wide.

Late in the first half, Emenike took aim from range, but Hugo Lloris was able to parry.

Nigeria suffered a blow early in the second period when SS Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi had to be stretchered off after an ugly, ankle-high challenge by Blaise Matuidi, who incredibly escaped with only a caution from referee Mark Geiger.

Faced with growing Nigeria pressure, Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps introduced Griezmann with 30 minutes to play and the move paid immediate dividends.

After Lloris had saved from Peter Odemwingie, a one-two between Karim Benzema and Griezmann set the Real Madrid man clear, but although he squeezed the ball past Enyeama, Victor Moses was on hand to hook clear.

Yet it was to prove a temporary reprieve and Juventus’ Pogba then gave France a lead they widened to 2-0 when Yobo, under pressure from Griezmann, inadvertently steered Valbuena’s cross into his own net.

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