A PAUL Pogba header and a Joseph Yobo own goal saw France edge a hard- fought contest with Nigeria 2-0 in Brasilia last night to reach the World Cup quarterfinals.
Pogba broke the deadlock in the 79th minute, nodding into an empty net after Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who plays for French club Lille, failed to collect a corner.
It was a cruel moment for Enyeama, but rewarded a barrage of French pressure sparked by the introduction of Antoine Griezmann, who forced Yobo to put through his own goal in injury time.
“Deliverance came late, but all the matches at this World Cup are difficult,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “We are among the best eight teams in the world who remain.
“We won’t go on about it, but we should savour it and in four days, we’ll go again,” he said.
African champions Nigeria, meanwhile, must wait to sample the last eight at a World Cup, following defeat in their first knockout-phase match at the tournament since the 1998 competition in France.
“We had a good game, we’re just unlucky to have lost,” Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. “The score does not reflect the game.”
While France started purposefully, their final ball frequently let them down.
Emmanuel Emenike thought he had put Nigeria ahead in the 19th minute when he prodded in a cross from Ahmed Musa, but it was offside.
France looked more threatening when they were able to bring recalled Mathieu Valbuena into the game.
When the Marseille midfielder teed up with Pogba for a vicious volley mid-way through the first half, it took a stunning reflex save from Enyeama to keep the game scoreless.
Another intelligent pass from Valbuena then gave Mathieu Debuchy a sight of goal, but the Newcastle United right back drilled wide.
Late in the first half, Emenike took aim from range, but Hugo Lloris was able to parry.
Nigeria suffered a blow early in the second period when Ogenyi Onazi had to be stretchered off after an ankle- high challenge by Blaise Matuidi, who escaped with only a caution.
Faced with growing Nigeria pressure, Deschamps introduced Griezmann in place of Olivier Giroud with 30 minutes to play and the move quickly paid immediate dividends.
The turning point came when Enyeama failed to claim Valbuena’s left-wing corner, allowing Juventus midfielder Pogba to head in at the back post.
Enyeama then palmed a shot from Griezmann over the bar, but France made it 2-0 at the death when Yobo, under pressure from Griezmann, inadvertently steered Valbuena’s drilled cross into his own net. – AFP