Nigeria’s World Cup Dream Ends

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New York Times by Lawrie Mifflin

June 30, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/30/sports/worldcup/world-cup-france-vs-nigeria.html?_r=0

Allez les Bleus: France’s World Cup campaign remains on track, as the French got through to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over Nigeria in Brasilia today.

But it certainly wasn’t as easy as the 2-0 scoreline makes it look. The Nigerians harassed, pestered and attacked the French for the first hour or more, playing them pretty evenly. France’s Hugo Lloris had to make a couple of outstanding saves, as did Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama. Enyeama, the man who had the most saves in the first round of this tournament, with 18, showed his mettle again.

But he made one mistake — weakly palming away a corner kick in the 79th minute that floated invitingly to Paul Pogba, who headed it into the net. That goal, and a key substitution by French Coach Didier Deschamps just three minutes earlier, made the difference.

Deschamps sent on Antoine Griezmann, a fleet and fresh attacker, to replace Olivier Giroud, and Griezmann sparked charge after charge, wearing the Nigerians down.

The move also allowed Karim Benzema, who had been sharing space with Giroud, to move alone into the center of attack, and cause trouble.

The final goal was an own goal, in the second minute of stoppage time, after a corner; the low shot deflected in off Joseph Yobo.

France had won its previous three Round of 16 matches, and went far in each tournament when it did — 1986 (finished third), 1998 (champions) and 2006 (lost in the final to Italy).

Here in Brazil, the French must contend with — probably — Germany in the quarterfinals on Friday, in Rio, unless Algeria pulls off a huge upset later this afternoon.

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