1. Didier Deschamps Disrupted His Side’s Flow
By making so many changes for the draw with Ecuador in the last match of the group stages, France boss Didier Deschamps disrupted his team’s flow and in turn saw the fluid football we saw against Honduras and Switzerland disappear.
You could understand Deschamps’ desire to give players a game, of course, but the French never really got going until the final 20 minutes here, and although they will be all the better for it come the quarter-final, his tinkering turned into a big risk.
2. Vincent Enyeama Is Another One Of The Tournament’s Fine Goalkeepers
After coming up against the considerable abilities of Lionel Messi and predictably ending up on the losing side in Nigeria’s last game, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was back to his very best against the French, keeping out Karim Benzema on numerous occasions and inspiring his side.
Although his tournament ends here, the Lille stopper can add his name to the likes of Guillermo Ochoa and Keylor Navas as one of the best goalkeepers of this World Cup. It has largely been a good three weeks for them.
3. Olivier Giroud Is Far Too Inconsistent
When Benzema and Olivier Giroud were paired together against Switzerland, France looked to have found the partnership which could take them far.
The duo were mobile, complemented each other well and always threatened, but as Giroud toiled here and had a game to forget, his presence merely got in the way of moving Benzema to a more central position. When Giroud departed, France got better.
4. Blaise Matuidi Sets France’s Midfield Tone
In the first half when France were struggling to string passes together and find their rhythm against the dangerous Nigerians, it wasn’t eventual goalscorer Paul Pogba or Yohan Cabaye who proved to be their inspiration but rather the less heralded Blaise Matuidi.
The Paris Saint-German midfielder frequently got his foot on the ball and helped drag his team several yards up the pitch, exactly what was needed at a time when they were struggling and looking vulnerable to the power of their opponents. Julien Laurens was tipping him to be France’s key player in this match, and it was easy to see why, although the midfielder was fortunate not to be sent off in the second half.
5. Antoine Griezmann Has Given Deschamps A Problem
Perhaps he just looked good after Giroud had delivered such a hopeless performance, but Antoine Griezmann was excellent when he came on for the French side, probing behind Benzema and adding a greater spark.
He forced the own goal from Joseph Yobo which killed this as a contest, and has certainly made a case to start the quarter-final.