France v Nigeria – World Cup preview

The last-16 clash from Brasilia is live on BBC1

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France v Nigeria, 4.30pm BBC1 (kick-off 5pm)

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A France side with no obvious weakness face their first test. Group games against Honduras (agricultural), Switzerland (confused) and Ecuador (passive) have hinted that this team might be very good indeed, but you need a competitive fixture to know for certain. After the second-gear 0-0 draw with Ecuador, right-sided imp Mathieu Valbuena is likely to return from being rested, with Yohan Cabaye once again levering that powerful midfield from deep following a one-match ban. Injured centre-back Mamadou Sakho is still out, however, so Laurent Koscielny – not a bad reserve! – continues.

Manager Didier Deschamps’ main concern is how to get the best from Karim Benzema, since only a hiccup in France’s flow of goalscoring can stop them winning this. Deschamps paired his star striker very effectively with Olivier Giroud against Switzerland, although Benzema surely prefers playing centrally and alone. 

Right-back might be another selection headache, since Nigeria’s main threat is from the frighteningly pacy, left-sided Ahmed Musa. He made a mug of Pablo Zabaleta last time out. Indeed, the wily Peter Odemwingie on the right and the imposing Emmanuel Emenike down the middle also found some joy against Argentina, albeit in a dead fixture.

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Sort out those little problems and France ought to be fine, since in midfield Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba ought to be far too good for Nigeria’s disorganised trio. The weather in Brasilia: 27C, not hot enough for Nigeria to have an advantage.