An under strength Nigerian team pulled off a shock 1-0 win against a sloppy French side when the two sides met in this international friendly match.
- Nigerian celebrations ensued as Les Blues fell to defeat
The French manager, Raymond Domenech, has never been the post popular man in France and this result will do nothing to improve his already tarnished reputation. The French team he fielded contained a number of first team players, but they looked lethargic and tired for long periods of the match and failed to pressurise the Nigerians who looked comfortable throughout. Few expected a strong Nigerian team ahead of their crucial qualifier against Kenya but all of their players staked a claim for a first team place with this surprise victory.
The only goal of the game came in the 32nd minute when Club Brugge striker Joseph Akpala took advantage of some poor French defending. A long pass came from deep in the Nigerian midfield and Akpala collected the ball on the wing. He then commenced to show Julian Escude a clean set of heels before running into acres of space and firing a low, powerful shot into the corner of the net. Domenech has previously stated the need for a solid French defense and you can imagine his agony when watching the goal as the French defenders let Akpala run and fire a shot in relative ease.
- Akpala celebrates after his well taken goal
The goal came as a great blow to Les Blues as, up to that point, they had looked the better of the two teams. Promising youngster Karim Benzema had fired over from 20 yards and then nearly found the net with a header from Franck Ribery’s freekick; fortunately for Nigeria Enyeama held on.
After Akpala’s opener, French number one Mandanda found himself the busier of the two ‘keepers, being forced into action to deny both Peter Odemwingie and Ikechukwu Uche.
Most probably anticipating the frosty French reception the next day if France lost, Domenech switched his team around at the interval but this failed to have the desired attack with Les Blues failing to find the equaliser, despite good chances for both Ribery and defender Rod Fanni. Loic Remy went closest, however, with a fierce drive that rattled the crossbar.
Head to Head’s
#1. KARIM BENZEMA v. UWA ECHIEJILE
With Everton’s Joseph Yobo absent, it was down to Uwa Echiejile to stop the young Lyon forward. Whilst the defender managed to keep the youngster from scoring, Benzema was allowed to roam the Nigerian final third freely, with Echiejile seemingly powerless to resist his pace and power. If Benzema had put on his shooting boots, the Lyon man could have scored a hatful.
THE WINNER: KARIM BENZEMA. Despite not scoring, Echiejile failed to stop Benzema seizing the ball and shooting. Benzema fired over in the 2oth minute and was able to direct a dangerous header towards goal in the 20th.
#2. ROD FANNI v. PETER ODEMWINGIE
Rod Fanni put in a solid performance and contributed well to the French attack when possible. However Odemwingie looks to be a very promising player for the Nigerian national team and, when he’s eventually paired with Obafemi Martins, Nigeria could have one of the best attacks in African football.
WINNER: PETER ODEMWINGIE. The forward had some very good chances and looked lively throughout.
#3. FRANCK RIBERY v. SEYI GEORGE OLOFINJANA
Olofinjana was given the hard job of keeping Franck Ribery quiet, and on the whole he succeeded. Ribery managed to produce a few shots and crosses but ultimately failed to dominate the game in his usual fashion. A disappointing night for the Munich man.
WINNER: SEYIGEORGE OLOFINJANA. Controlling Ribery was more of a team effort, but Olofinjana still put in a good performance.
#4. RAYMOND DOMENECH v. SHAIBU AMODU
Domenech really should be worried by his side’s poor performance. He fielded a strong side which fell to an under-strengh Nigerian team, but credit given where credit’s due- Amodu’s tactics were spot on. His team managed to keep both Ribery and Benzama quiet, whilst his teams attacking pace made Nigerian counter attacks very deadly.
Many will simply dismiss this a poor friendly showing, and hope that France put this defeat to the back of their minds. However, with their poor recent qualification showings, Domenech has admitted to the press that he is feeling the pressure and even confided in one friend that he was “beginning to fear even the Faroe Islands”. Expect a new French manager come the 2010 World Cup; that is, if France get there.