2014 FIFA World Cup: Day 18 Recap

Paul Pogba was France's best player against Nigeria
Paul Pogba was France's best player against Nigeria

France Continues Redepmtion Tour Against Nigeria

Nigeria will be singing “Les Bleus” after their elimination from the World Cup at the hands of France. The French side, embarrassed four years ago in South Africa but one of the top teams in the 2014 tournament, couldn’t find a way to beat Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama until the final minutes. But their victory was decisive and their place in the quarterfinals deserved.

From the opening kickoff both teams came out firing. Nigeria moved the ball up field at top speed while France tried to use counterattacks and overwhelm Nigeria with numbers. In the 19th minute Nigeria thought they had the opening goal, but the offside flag negated the ball in the French net. At the end of 45 minutes the score remained deadlocked, but Nigeria laid claim to more possession and looked to be putting a real scare into the French side. 

Deep into the second half France began tilting the balance in their favour, though, coming inches away from their first goal in the 70th minute. French striker Karim Benzema crept behind the Nigerian line and gave the ball his left boot, Enyeama blocked the shot, but the bouncing ball had to be cleared just inches off the goal line by Victor Moses to keep the score line empty. Minutes later Johan Cabaye got room to take a crack at goal, but this time the crossbar would have none of it. Finally, 79 minutes into the match Enyeama slipped up, knocking a corner kick right to Paul Pogba, who headed into the gaping goal.

France didn’t let up, continuing to send players forward in attack, but their insurance marker eventually went off a Nigerian leg. Luis Valbuena collected a short corner and licked a pass across the goalmouth, where it brushed off Nigerian captain Joseph Yobo and into the net.

Germany Break Algerian Hearts Again

Revenge will have to wait another day.

Algeria finally had a chance to enact a bit of justice against Germany for their fate in the 1982 tournament, when they were undeservedly eliminated by a cynical bit of collusion between Austria and then-West Germany. The shame of the two European sides forcing out the African team by refusing to compete with each other begat a World Cup rule change dictating the final games in each group be played simultaneously. When they rewrite the rule book, you just know you did something wrong.

There’s no argument that Germany isn’t a better team than Algeria, but the Algerians certainly played as if they wanted the win more than their opponents. Algerian keeper Rais M’Bolhi in particular refused to give the Germans any goals—his German counterpart, on the other hand, played restlessly and recklessly, charging out of the penalty area on several occasions, but luckily getting the better of the exchanges.

Neither side would concede a goal through 90 minutes, but it only took two minutes of extra time for Germany to break the stalemate. Thomas Muller slipped a pass through the defensive line that Andre Schurrle had to reach back to find before sending it into the netting. With two minutes left in extra time Germany struck again, Mesut Ozil taking advantage of a complete defensive meltdown to first pass off, then collect his teammate’s rebound and score it himself. Algeria came back with a too-little-too-late goal at the very end of extra time to preserve dignity, but it’ll be at least four more years ‘til they can right a historic wrong.

Germany will meet France on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals.

Drew Berner

Drew Berner is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto and specializing in entertainment, sports and politics. He occasionally collects vinyl records, enjoys hate-watching the Blue Jays, appreciates good beer and great scotch, and goes to sleep each night with 120 lbs. of Great Dane draped over him (it’s a lot more comfortable than it sounds). Follow him on Twitter @DrewBerner for photos of huge dogs, observational humour and assorted sports rage.

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