France are through into the World Cup quarterfinals after a 2-0 win over Nigeria in Brasília. It wasn't the most convincing of performances from Les Bleus, who were well-matched by the Super Eagles for most of the match. However, Nigeria's crucial loss of concentration in the final 15 minutes allowed France to take control and net twice to advance into the next round.
Heading into the match it was obvious Nigeria would look to harm their opponents on the counter-attack, and France reacted accordingly. They sat very deep from the first whistle, and were more than content to allow the Super Eagles' midfielders time on the ball. But rather than being lured into Didier Deschamps' trap, the African champions retained possession well, and their pleasing interchanges in the final third ensured goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had to stay alert.
It momentarily seemed as if the Nigeria had taken advantage of France's standoffish start to break the deadlock in the 19th minute, though the offside flag cancelled out Emmanuel Emenike's close-range finish on Ahmed Musa's excellent cross. It was a narrow escape for Les Bleus, who were surprisingly lethargic.
France didn't create their first chance until midway through the first half, when they surged down the right through Mathieu Valbuena. Nigeria's defence was caught skewed out of position, though they were fortunate to have experienced goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama on hand to keep out Paul Pogba's sweet volley from the edge of the penalty area.
Gradually France started to play a little more proactively, applying sustained pressure on the Nigeria defence for the first time. However, Stephen Keshi's side held firm and looked to take advantage of the shift in momentum by hitting their opponents on the counter. John Obi Mikel had their final attempt before halftime, though Lloris palmed his long-range effort away from danger.
The tempo of the game dropped markedly after the players came out for the second half, which played into the hands of the weaker Nigeria side. Unfortunately they suffered a big blow just short of the hour mark, when a nasty challenge from French midfielder Blaise Matuidi ensured Ogenyi Onazi's World Cup ended on a stretcher.
Unperturbed, Nigeria continued to control the game, and weren't given a real scare until France broke through on goal for the first time with 20 minutes remaining. A neat one-two between Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann left the striker one-on-one with Enyeama, though the keeper got down to make a crucial save before Victor Moses hooked the loose ball off the goalline.
Their close shave seemed to give France added impetus, and they went even closer to taking the lead from distance minutes later. The ball fell through to Yohan Cabaye on the edge of the Nigeria penalty area, though the midfielder's excellent volley cracked off the underside of the crossbar before bouncing clear. Benzema went close again within moments, though Enyeama tipped his close-range header over.
It suddenly felt as if France had woken up. They had. Some poor goalkeeping from Enyeama saw him flap at a Mathieu Valbuena corner, leaving Pogba to head the ball into an empty net at the far post with just over 10 minutes left on the clock.
It could have been 2-0 immediately, though Enyeama made an excellent save on a one-on-one with Griezmann to keep Nigeria in the game. However, the stop only served to delay the inevitable, an own goal from Joseph Yobo on Valbuena's low cross confirming the defeat in stoppage time.
France: Lloris; Evra, Koscielny, Varane, Debuchy; Matuidi, Cabaye, Pogba; Benzema, Giroud (Griezmann 62'), Valbuena (Sissoko 90+3').
Goals: Pogba (79'), Yobo (o.g. 90+2').
Nigeria: Enyeama; Oshaniwa, Yobo, Omeruo, Ambrose; Mikel, Onazi (Gabriel 59'); Musa, Moses (Nwofor 89'), Odemwingie; Emenike.