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France too strong for Nigeria

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

BRASILIA - A Paul Pogba header and a Joseph Yobo own goal saw France edge a hard-fought contest with Nigeria 2-0 in Brasilia to reach the 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 French club Lille, failed to collect a corner.

It was a cruel moment for Enyeama, but rewarded a barrage of French pressure sparked by the introduction of Antoine Griezmann, who forced Yobo to put through his own goal in injury time.

Didier Deschamps's France will meet Germany at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on July 4.

African champions Nigeria, meanwhile, must wait to sample the last eight at a World Cup, following defeat in their first knockout-phase match at the tournament since the 1998 competition in France.

Stephen Keshi's side nonetheless departed to the sound of warm applause from the fans crammed into the cavernous Mane Garrincha National Stadium, who allied themselves with Nigeria's cause from the off.

While France, who showed six changes, started purposefully, their final ball frequently let them down, which handed Nigeria opportunities to use their pace on the counter-attack.

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 heart rates to return to normal.

France looked more threatening when they were able to bring the recalled Mathieu Valbuena into the game.

When the Marseille midfielder teed up Pogba for a vicious volley mid-way 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 right-back drilled wide.

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

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