Not many soccer analysts gave France a realistic chance to do much during the 2014 World Cup, but my sleeper pick to win it all this year, will enter their knockout stage match against Nigeria looking like one of the top contenders to advance to the next round at the very least.
France routed Honduras 3-0 to win its World Cup opener before going on to man-handle Sweden in its convincing 5-2 loss in their second group stage match. Team manager Didier Deschamps made a smart the decision to rest some of his starters instead of going for the win in their nil-all draw against Ecuador in its group stage closer on Wednesday. Click here for more World Cup betting odds.
Starts: 06/30/2014 12:00PM
France vs. Nigeria Round of 16 Betting Line
Line: France (-1, -120) vs. Nigeria (+1, Even)
Over/Under Total 2½
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The Les Bleus have gotten a ton of stellar performances from numerous players on their roster. Striker Karim Benzema has scored three goals and tallied two assists. The team’s trio of midfielders, Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba has more than held their own, often dominating their opponents more often than not. According to fivethirtyeight.com, France has a solid 76% chance of getting out of this round and into the semifinals.
French defender Bacary Sagna recently told reporters, "we aspire to win trophies and, for me, it would be a failure not to win the World Cup. The objective is becoming and more and more precise," adding that "we’re four games from the title and we want to do it."
France has been the best attacking team this World Cup, with seven goals scored on just 62 attempts. 13 shots were blocked, 19 were saved and 23 were off target.
Nigeria went 1-1-1 in their three group stage matches to advance to the knockout stage and looked really solid in their narrow 3-2, stage closing loss to mighty Argentina on Wednesday.
The Super Eagles kicked off their 2014 World Cup with a respectable 0-0 draw against mediocre Iran before going on to shut out Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in its second match.
Now, the will look to use their overwhelming speed and virtually peerless counterattacking style to pull off the knockout stage upset and set themselves up to advance to the semifinal round.
Gifted 21-year-old striker Ahmed Musa scored two goals in Nigeria’s 3-2 loss to Lionel Messi and Argentina and he will look to lead the way in this match as well. Musa will need some help in this match from fellow forward Peter Odemwingie if they are to pull off the upset in this match against a French team that is a lot better than anyone thought (except myself and Pele).
Musa went on to say that his team will need to play even better in order to beat France.
"We need to defend well, take our chances up front and learn from the Argentina game. In the second round, it’s winner takes all. I know with hard work and God’s support we shall make history,” Musa said. "But prayers without hard work is nothing, so we need to be at our best against France to make it happen."
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, who made his own history at this tournament by becoming the first Nigerian to take the Super Eagles past the group stage, praised Musa for his individual performance against Argentina.
"It’s a team effort but you need to let Musa know he was awesome," Keshi told BBC Sport.
Nigeria has scored just three goals on an average of 14 shot attempts per match while France has put up seven on an average of 20.7 shots per match.
Nigeria has just a 24% chance of getting out of the knockout round and a six (2%) percent chance of reaching the seminal round.
My Pick France vs. Nigeria Round of 16 Betting Line Pick:
In the end, I believe France’s diversity, experience and equally-impressive footwork will help them win this match, though it certainly won’t be a cakewalk. I like Nigeria to score at least once in a match that looks like a one-goal win for France just waiting to happen.