World Cup 2014 last 16 preview: France v Nigeria
Nigeria won their only previous senior international fixture with France back in 2009. Loic Remy made his debut for Les Bleus that day, but the Super Eagles won 1-0. A repeat scoreline with Coral in their round of 16 clash is an 22/1 shot.
Group E winners France will not be fielding a weakened side, as they did five years ago, here and that is why they are odds-on favourites both to win in 90 minutes at 1/2, and to qualify for the quarter-finals at 1/4.
African champions Nigeria are 6/1 shots to upset Les Bleus without resorting to extra time. Should they need an additional half hour, they are at even longer odds of 20/1. The Super Eagles are 3/1 to advance to the last eight.
Whether it takes 90 minutes, two hours or a penalty shoot-out to separate these sides, France are favourites. It’s 7/1 the 1998 winners are victorious in extra time, while Didier Deschamps’ charges are 10/1 to knock Nigeria out on spot kicks.
Stephen Keshi’s squad are the latest African nation to be rocked by the unrest, which seems rife in countries from their continent, surrounding bonus payments. Cameroon and Ghana have been embroiled in similar disputes at this tournament, and both went out in the group stage.
The Super Eagles missed training on Thursday seeking assurances, but this is yet another unpleasant sideshow to the festival of football that the Brazil finals are supposed to be. If Nigerian heads are not in the right place, back Les Bleus to win to nil, something they’ve done five times in their eight-match unbeaten run, at 13/10.
Punters can expect Deschamps to recall first-choice defenders Mathieu Debuchy, Patrice Evra and Raphael Varane, while Yohan Cabaye will be back in midfield after suspension should he overcome a groin problem. Attackers Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Valbuena may also return.
Karim Benzema has six international goals from five caps this calendar year, so he will either spearhead the French attack or be moved to a nominal left wing berth to accommodate Giroud. Either way, the Real Madrid frontman is odds-on at 10/11 in the anytime scorer market, or a better 7/2 to net the opener.
Arsenal striker Giroud, meanwhile, is even-money to be on target against Nigeria, and Valbuena is 10/3 to cap his likely recall with a goal. Antoine Griezmann will be involved at some stage too, so odds of 6/4 for him to net anytime must be considered too.
This sordid business of bonuses aside, Super Eagles supporters will be looking to the Premier League contingent in their squad to put money to one side and perform in a match of this magnitude. Judging by his performance in the 3-2 defeat by Argentina, though, much will be expected of attacking midfielder Ahmed Musa.
He bagged a brace on his last outing, but is 18/1 to do so or better again. Musa is 10/3 in the anytime market, alongside Peter Odemwingie, the other Nigeria player to net at this tournament. Victor Moses, who spent the season on loan at Liverpool, is 5/1 to produce something in front of goal, and former Newcastle United target man Shola Ameobi is the same price.
A France win is written all over this tie, it’s just a case of how many and whether the Super Eagles can nick something. Les Bleus beating them 2-1 looks tempting at 8/1, while victory for Deschamps and both teams scoring is safer at 5/2. This is to ignore an impressive clean sheet record of the French recently, though; six in their last eight, and three in four.
Winning 3-0 would only be asking them to repeat what they did against a Honduras side more interested in kicking Les Bleus off the park than playing football. That result is par for this course on paper, and would lay ghosts of two French defeats in their last three against African teams at World Cups to rest. Punters, meanwhile, will get a healthy pay-out at 9/1.