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Draw forces French back to basics at World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 26, 2014 at 2:16 pm •  Published: June 26, 2014
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RIBEIRAO PRETO, Brazil (AP) — France's misfiring performance against Ecuador took some gloss off what had been a strong start from a team being touted as one of the outsiders to win the World Cup.

Although Wednesday's 0-0 draw may have worked in France's favor in terms of pressure — by tempering the rising expectation level after emphatic wins against Honduras and Switzerland — the players need to be more clinical in front of goal against Nigeria in their round-of-16 match.

"We'll simply have to put our chances away," striker Olivier Giroud said. "We were a bit hit and miss but we know what we can do."

France was much more miss than hit, failing to score from 20 shots — 13 of them on target — with Giroud himself squandering a late close-range header from a few yards out.

Coach Didier Deschamps' decision to make six changes from the side which beat Switzerland 5-2 resulted in a disjointed performance against Ecuador. But it also meant that the regulars left on the bench — notably in defense — will be well rested before facing Nigeria in what are likely to be hot and testing conditions.

"We're going to play at 1 p.m. We're going to have to adapt to the rhythm," Deschamps said, explaining that France will move forward its customary late-afternoon training sessions to lunchtime in order to be better prepared for Monday's game.

They will need to be given how Nigeria tested Argentina in Wednesday's 3-2 loss, with 21-year-old forward Ahmed Musa scoring twice.

"Nigeria is a solid, well-organized team," he said. "They defend well and they have a very good goalkeeper, quality and speed up front."

Musa's pace caused problems for Argentina's defense, but at least France now has prior warning.

Deschamps' decision to rest both his first-choice fullbacks: right back Mathieu Debuchy and left back Patrice Evra — may well prove to have been tactically astute, as they will need fresh legs to keep up with Musa and Emmanuel Emenike, who is a bustling, powerful forward.

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