France not taking Nigeria too lightly

Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie (right) attends a training session ahead of their World Cup game against...

Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie (right) attends a training session ahead of their World Cup game against France, in the Mane Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia, on Sunday, June 29, 2014. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:56 PM ET

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - Many of the African nations that have come to Brazil 2014 have made news ... most of them for the wrong reasons.

The theme for those nations this time around is money. They want it and apparently aren’t getting enough of it. Several of the African countries are less than pleased that they aren’t getting the kind of dough they think they should be getting.

It’s been quite shameless in some cases. It reached epically stupid proportions when Ghana sent a plane with $3 million to their team in Brazil. Pictures became public of players kissing stacks of cash.

Ghana has since gone home.

The problems don’t only belong to the players. Some of the football associations in Africa would rather keep the cash than give it out.

But Nigeria is still here and Monday they’ll play a knockout match in Brasilia against France, a team many are looking at to go deep into this tournament. It will be Nigeria's first knockout game at a World Cup since 1998 in France.

Nigeria also had monetary issues.

Their Thursday training session was cancelled, a strange situation considering they are in the knockout stage. The reason given for the cancellation supposedly was that a team meeting ran long. But the real skinny was that their players were demanding bonuses owed to them just as Cameroon and Ghana had received.

There are also issues with Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi. Some players don’t get along with him.

None of this is unusual with African nations. Many are in a constant state of upheaval for one reason or another.

That’s a danger for France. Les Bleues may overlook the Nigerians.

While Nigerian players won’t be getting together and singing Kumbaya, they are perfectly capable of getting together enough to stage an upset.

“We need to defend well, take our chances up front and learn from the Argentina game,” Ahmad Musa told BBC Sport.

“In the second round, it’s winner takes all. I know with hard work and God’s support we shall make history.

“But prayers without hard work is nothing so we need to be at our best against France to make it happen.”

Nigeria gave Argentina major problems in its final group game and only two stellar strikes by Lionel Messi saved Argentina, who went on to win 3-2.

“They're a good team, they caused Argentina problems. They are powerful, quick up front and hardworking in midfield,” said France midfielder Yohan Cabaye. “They play with a lot of energy.”

That is, when they want to play with energy.

Nigeria is quick and dangerous when given space especially with Emmanuel Emenike and Ahmed Musa.

France hasn’t given anyone much space in this tournament. It has recorded two clean sheets but they were against Ecuador and Honduras, hardly matadors in terms of scoring goals.

But it too is a nation that’s well familiar with dealing with internal problems. The squabbling scuttled their 2010 World Cup and caused the French global soccer embarrassment.

Things have been rosy with the French so far in this tournament and the results have reflected it. But they aren’t going to take anyone lightly and they aren’t going to let their early tournament success go to their head.

“One false step and you're home, so you already have that pressure,” Cabaye said. “It's great to be ambitious. But to say we're going to win the World Cup is a lot.

“Confidence shouldn't become arrogance because that's when you have problems.”

It’s a song being sung by his teammates.

“They're African champions and some of their players play for top European clubs, some in the English league,” Bacary Sagna said. “We know they're a dangerous team and that we'll have to be patient.”

French coach Didier Deschamps has a wealth of talent to choose from. Karim Benzema is a sure bet because he is having a wonderful tournament but who he will play with is still open to debate.

Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann are challenging for that spot alongside Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena.

What’s even more important for Deschamps is that this time around, the talent is happy.


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