Deschamps has France ticking nicely
After the shame of 2010, Didier Deschamps' faith in youth and character has been well rewarded
ROUND OF 16
FRANCE v NIGERIA
(Tonight, 11.59pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)
After the shame of 2010, comes the rebirth of 2014. Under Didier Deschamps, France are no longer a motley, surly collection of individuals.
The man who lifted the World Cup as a player in 1998 has stripped out the difficult personalities, put his faith in youth and character and has been well rewarded.
A win against Nigeria tonight will take his team to the last eight of a competition of which few expected them to even qualify.
The only sign of disagreements in the camp came after qualification was secured against Ecuador last week.
Bacary Sagna, now with Manchester City, immediately pronounced that it would be "a failure", if France failed to win the World Cup. A little later, Yohan Cabaye had a rather more measured view.
"To say we're going to win the World Cup is a lot," he said. "Confidence shouldn't become arrogance because that's when you have problems."
For those scrutinising France in search of signs if impending eruptions, this is as good as it gets.
It's been hard to get a read on France's true level in this tournament, not through their own failings, but because of the shortcomings of their opponents.
Both Honduras and Ecuador generously gave up a man to indiscipline, leaving Deschamps side very much in their comfort zone.
But it's hard to take anything away from the demolition job they did on Switzerland, save for the two late goals they conceded when the game was already up.
We know this much: They have great strength in depth in all positions.
Some of the Premier League's best players last season, Laurent Koscielny, Morgan Schneiderlin, Olivier Giroud and Loic Remy have all appeared off the bench. Injuries and suspensions will not cause undue issues for Deschamps.
They are also tactically versatile, able to shift Karim Benzema to the left and play with a lone striker, or going with two up front and using Giroud as a targetman.
Mathieu Valbuena offers so much invention that it's a wonder he hasn't been snapped up by a bigger team than Marseille and Antoine Griezmann has the potential make this World Cup his breakout tournament.
All in all, you can see why Sagna is so confident.
But if their last game is anything to go by, Nigeria certainly have little to fear.
Up against Argentina in Porto Alegre, they were hit twice by Lionel Messi goals and twice fought back for parity, before finally succumbing to a third strike. They were, at no time, intimidated by their opponents.
Manager Stephen Keshi has performed extremely well, especially given what happened in Nigeria's first game. Having started well enough against Iran, the African side's game soon fell apart.
They could have played until midnight and they still wouldn't have hit the back of the net. Amid a ferocious reaction from their local press, Keshi steadied the ship and guided the team to an excellent 1-0 win over Bosnia.
He is the first African coach to reach the knockout stage, an honour that no-one could deny him especially after the shabby way he was treated by Togo in 2006, ruthlessly sacked and replaced by a European coach before the tournament even began.
In Ahmed Musa, Keshi has a player who fears nothing. Two goals against Argentina sent his reputation through the stratosphere and it's of little surprise that some of Europe's big clubs are taking note.
CSKA Moscow, who by all accounts have endured some patchy performances from their exciting forward, should be able to get a decent price, if they opt to trade him in.
France are rightly the favourites, but Nigeria do have the ability to cause them problems.
One thing's for sure, if Deschamps' men come through this game as they have come through the rest, there won't be any doubts about them anymore.
Cabaye: No room for France arrogance
Yohan Cabaye knows France could come unstuck if they are guilty of arrogance in tonight's World Cup last-16 clash against Nigeria.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Cabaye has taken great heart from their performances in the tournament so far, but he reacted to talk of France being potential World Cup winners with caution.
"The fact we showed our quality in the group stage obviously should make us more confident but not arrogant, otherwise we are going to have major problems," Cabaye said. "We are going to play a very good team and if we lose we must accept that." - Wire Services.