Today’s two matches (France vs. Nigeria now, Germany vs. Algeria later) follow an interesting pattern that has developed in this World Cup’s Round of 16. Saturday’s matches were both South American only: CONMEBOL vs. CONMEBOL. Sunday’s were both UEFA (Europe) vs. CONCACAF (North and Central America). Today’s are both UEFA vs. CAF, and UEFA sides will be almost as heavily favored to win as CONMEBOL sides were on Saturday.
Another pattern: the team that earned more points in the group stage has won each of the four Round of 16 matches so far. Group winners Brazil (7 points), Colombia (9), Holland (9), and Costa Rica (7) have respectively seen off Chile (6), Uruguay (6), Mexico (7), and Greece (4). All of that favors France and Germany today.
What’s At Stake
The winners of this match advance to face either heavyweights Germany or a fired-up Algerian team. France are expected to go through, because they’re good every other World Cup and 2010 was an unqualified national disaster. Nigeria are not expected to go through, because they’re ranked twenty-seven spots behind France, they’ve never advanced past this stage, and they’ve won only one of their last eleven World Cup matches.
Nigeria play a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 hybrid with a fluid midfield. They’ll be on the back foot against a strong French side for much of this match, which suits them. As often seems to be the case with African sides, they prefer to counterattack; they looked hopeless in their first match against ultra-defensive Iran, who didn’t allow any counterattacking space behind their deep back line.
France also switch between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, depending on the positioning of Paul Pogba, who either plays as the center of the “3” or drops a bit deeper to join two defensive midfielders. Beside that, it’s mostly standard 4-2-3-1: the wingers cut in, and the fullbacks bomb forward.
Players to Watch
France: Pogba, the former Manchester United/current Juventus midfielder. How far forward will he play?
Nigeria: Vincent Enyeama, the goalkeeper. He had eighteen saves in the group stages. He’ll be busy again tonight.
Derek Rae and Efan Ekoku. Ekoku played as a striker for Nigeria during his career, scoring six goals in twenty matches. Rae is the only Scot on the ESPN roster of commentators.
Match-specific Drinking Games
Patience: Take a shot every fifteen minutes until a goal is scored. How drunk? Probably very drunk. The group stage offered plenty of goals, but most of the action (six out of nine goals so far) seems to be happening in the second half since the Round of 16 started.
Speculative: Take a shot whenever a player takes one from outside the box. How drunk? Wasted. Both sides involved today like a pop.
Ambush: Drink any time the Nigerians burst forth on the counterattack with a numerical advantage. How drunk? Slight buzz.
France: Red wine.
– Read my general World Cup watching guide.
– Check out Zonal Marking, my favorite tactics website.
– See a commentary schedule or a review of each commentator.
– See where I’m getting my national drink recommendations.
– Check out other match previews involving these teams: Nigeria vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina, Switzerland vs. France, Iran vs. Nigeria, France vs. Honduras
Picture credit: eurosport.fr