The Joie De Vivre seems to have returned to the French in this World Cup but their last 16 game against Nigeria seems worth sitting out. The French were 20/1 shots before the tournament began and are now half that price, at 9/1, a reaction which is entirely fair on the visual impression they left in their first two games when brushing aside Honduras and then pummelling Switzerland in an attacking performance that is right up there with the very best seen in this tournament so far.
Didier Deschamps came into the job with the side in disarray and so nearly lot it after Ukraine took them apart and were lucky only to win 2-0 but after putting a sword to his squad, since trashing Ukraine in the second leg he’s since cut the negative influences that ruined their World Cup four years ago and also their euros two years ago but this seems to be a different camp and their unison has allowed them to take advantage of the talent that they boast.
However, one has to be objective when looking at their group stage form. They were a joy to watch against Honduras but probably met the most limited side in the competition – even Iran had something to offer going forward – and one that seemed only interested in putting their weight into a side that had the game as soon as they jumped clear. Against Switzerland they were truly meriting of the plaudits that came their way as they sliced through them – the two goals in a 2 minute blitz at the first half setting them on their way to the tournament’s most comprehensive performance even if they did slack late on with two goals conceded, and against Ecuador, they had the better of a drab game having made six changes.
Nigeria are here thanks a 1-0 win over Bosnia (along with a draw against Iran of course) but they were deeply impressive against Argentina on the counter attack and their opening draw with Iran has been shown to be much better form that it looked previously with the Iranians frustrating Argentina until the last minute when sitting deep. Against Bosnia they caused serious problems going down the right with Ahmed Musa Peter Odemwingie and Michael Babatunde all regularly causing problems and it’s no exaggeration to say that they could have had more against both those sides.
Defensively they have presented plenty of chances to both sides however, and the high quality French line, powered by Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi, should fancy their chances of finding Karim Benzema in particular although Antoine Greizmann has been in fine form and Mathieu Valubeuna remains a constant threat. Popular consensus is that France’s class will tell but with them in the outright book and Benzema as a top scorer option then there’s reason to avoid 1/2 and no handicaps are tempting enough.