Late goals see France advance, beat stubborn Nigeria to reach quarters


France scored twice late on through Paul Pogba and a Josehph Yobo own goal to make the World Cup quarterfinals after beating Nigeria 2-0 in a tense encounter in Brasilia on Monday.

Early on the African champions took the game to France and the game wad deadlocked at half time.

However as the game wore on, France looked more likely to grab a winner and only the heroics of Nigerian ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama kept Les Bleus at bay. Enyeama then turned from hero to villain with 10 minutes to go, as he inexplicably came for a corner, tipped the ball towards Pogba and the Juventus midfielder nodded France into the lead.

In stoppage time Yobo’s own goal compounded Nigeria’s misery, as France made it through to the quarterfinals for the first-time since 2006.

[ RELATED : Full bracket for the WC knockout stages ]

Early on the game ebbed and flowed, as France surged forward through Pogba but the Juventus man saw his pull back cleared for a corner as Benzema and Giroud both lurked in the box.

Nigeria didn’t sit back and launched plenty of their own attacks to put France on the back foot. In the 15th minute Benzema and Giroud linked up but the latter was off balance and sent a shot way over the bar as Les Bleus struggled to get a foothold in the game.

However just as France threatened to start clicking through the gears, Ahmed Musa whipped in a delightful cross from the left which Emenike stabbed home for Nigeria… but the offside flag was up as American referee Mark Geiger (the first to ref a World Cup knockout match) and his officials got the call spot on.

source: AP
Nigeria pinned France back, but Les Bleus were too good in the end.

France hit back in the 22nd minute as  Valbuena was released down the right and his perfect cross found Pogba on the penalty spot but the Frenchman’s flying volley was beaten away acrobatically by Enyeama. Nigeria continued to press and pin France back as the heavy favorites looked nervy in the opening half in Brasilia. Five minutes before the break Deschamps side had a glorious opportunity to take the lead as Valbuena was again the architect as his run and cut back opened up space for right back Matheiu Debuchy but he lashed his effort wide with the goal beckoning.

Before the break Nigeria came close again as Emenike picked up the ball on the right hand side of the box and crashed a thunderous effort towards goal that Hugo Lloris couldn’t hold but France ended up clearing the danger. In the second half the same pattern occurred as Nigeria pushed forward but there was then a large stoppage as Ogenyi Onazi was caught by Matuidi outstretched leg and the Nigerian midfielder was stretchered off the pitch. Nigeria then went close through Peter Odemwingie as he blasted a shot in on goal that Lloris saved smartly.

France finally woke up and then took the game to Nigeria as Benzema saw his shot cleared off the line after going one-on-one with Enyeama. The Lille ‘keeper stopped Benzema’s shot but the ball then trickled towards the line, only for Moses to hack it clear and keep the scores locked at 0-0. Soon after France continued to pile on the pressure and Benzema’s cross-shot was cleared off the line by Efe Ambrose, then Yohan Cabaye’s follow-up shot smashed the underside of the crossbar and bounced away.

Then it was Benzema again as Enyeama saved his header from point blank range and tipped it out for a corner. Form that set-piece Enyeama made his only mistake of the afternoon as he came for the corner and only tipped the ball into Pogba’s path, as the French youngster headed France ahead with just over 10 minutes to go.

Late on Nigeria pressed for the equalizer that would send the match into extra time but a superb ball into the box from Valbuena found substitute Antoine Griezmann, however he missed it and the ball nicked off Yobo’s leg and into the net to make it 2-0 to France.

France saw out the game to book a quarterfinal spot for the first-time since 2006 and the eighth-time in their history.


France: Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Koscielny, Evra; Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi; Valbuena (Sissoko, 90′), Giroud (Griezmann, 62′), Benzema.

Goal: Pogba, 79′, Yobo – Own goal, 90′

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Yobo, Oshaniwa, Omeru; Musa, Onazi (Gabriel, 59′), Mikel, Moses (Nwofor, 89′); Odemwingie, Emenike.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

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It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

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Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”