Nigeria (1-1-1) vs. France (2-0-1), Noon (ET)
06/30/2014 9:10 AM
06/30/2014 9:14 AM
Brasilia, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - France enters its round of 16 fixture against Nigeria as a significant favorite at the Estadio Nacional on Monday, but the French are not taking anything for granted.
Les Bleus rolled through their first two games at the tournament by a combined score of 8-2 before running into a stubborn Ecuador side that held the French to a 0-0 draw.
"We have qualified, so one must be happy about that," said France forward Karim Benzema after the game with Ecuador. "It was a tough, tough match, and although we had a lot of success in front of goal in our previous games this time we came across a team who caused us problems on a physical level.
"Now we have to rest, recover and get 100 percent ready for the knockout match against Nigeria, who are a good, strong team."
The result against Ecuador was enough to clinch the top spot in Group E for France, but it also served as a reminder that the team must not lose focus after two impressive outings, especially now that Didier Deschamps' men have reached the knockout round.
That sentiment was echoed by midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who feels as though his team can take confidence from its group-stage performance but must also be wary of the threat posed by Nigeria.
"The fact we showed our quality in the group stage obviously should make us more confident but not arrogant, otherwise we are going to have major problems," said Cabaye, who could return to the starting lineup on Monday after sitting out France's last match through suspension.
Victor Moses was an injury worry for Nigeria, but he has returned to training and figures to take part in Monday's match, which could see Nigeria reach the quarterfinals for the first time at a World Cup.
The Super Eagles were left frustrated by a 0-0 draw with Iran in their opening match in Group F, but rebounded to edge Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1-0, in their most important fixture of the group stage.
That victory put them in a great spot to advance ahead of the meeting with group-winners Argentina, but they gave a good account of themselves and were level with the South American giants into the second half before falling to a goal from Marcos Rojo in a 3-2 defeat.
Nigeria's attack failed to really get going until the Argentina match, so despite the loss, it was a positive for head coach Stephen Keshi to take away from the game.
Keshi was a member of Nigeria's team at the 1994 World Cup when they reached the knockout round for the first time, and although his side is a considerable underdog in this fixture, he is still expecting to advance.
"Whether we are playing against Spain at the Confederations Cup or playing against Liberia in a friendly match, I always tell the boys that victory is non-negotiable," Keshi said.
Ahmed Musa has scored two of Nigeria's three goals at this tournament and he will need to be in top form again on Monday, while most of the playmaking duties have been carried out by Emmanuel Emenike, who has a pair of assists thus far.
Benzema has been the top target for France with three goals and two assists to this point, and he must rebound from his scoreless effort against Ecuador to lead the way for Les Bleus.
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