30 June 2014 | News Comments

Preview: Monday's World Cup matches

France v Nigeria, Brasilia, 1700

France meet Nigeria in Brasilia for the first time ever at a World Cup looking to build on their impressive unbeaten start to the finals which saw them qualify for the knockout stages as group winners.

Les Bleus' record against African sides at the finals is hardly cause for optimism though, having lost to South Africa and Senegal in recent years, but Didier Deschamps has put together arguably the most cohesive French squad for some time.

With Karim Benzema finding his international form at exactly the right time, confidence in the French camp will be high but Nigeria should offer a stern test.

Having edged out a strong-looking Bosnia-Herzegovina to progress alongside group favourites Argentina, the Super Eagles have shown defensive resilience while, in the pacy Ahmed Musa who notched twice against Messi and co during the final group game, they have the ability to make the difference at the other end of the pitch.

Enyeama to be kept busy
No team had more shots at goal during the group stages than France who managed an impressive 61 attempts, almost two-thirds of which hit the target. Nigeria don't appear to be particularly adept at preventing the opposition from having efforts at goal either - Stephen Keshi's side have faced 43 attempts at their own target, an area in which only the United States, Colombia and Ecuador were less effective.

Nigerian stopper Victor Enyeama may well be in for a busy afternoon in Brasilia.

Beware the French scoring machine
Only the Netherlands and Colombia scored more than France's eight goals during the group stages, five of which came against a usually resolute Switzerland side. In contrast, Nigeria managed just one goal in their opening two games before adding a further two during their entertaining defeat to Argentina. Of the teams that qualified for the knockout rounds only Greece scored fewer goals than the Super Eagles.

Eagles' counter a worthy weapon
All three Nigeria goals so far have come on the counter at the World Cup finals. It's therefore hardly surprising to hear that 60% of the Super Eagles' passes have been forward, highlighting their direct style of play - only Iran have a higher percentage of forward passes. France might well see most of the ball but, with the likes of Musa, Victor Moses and Michel Babatunde in their ranks, the Super Eagles' strength on the counter-attack could prove a real threat to the French backline.

Summary
The opening day of the knockout stages offered no surprises, despite Brazil needing penalties to see off a stubborn Chile side, and it's difficult to see any change in the underdogs' fortunes here. France can be forgiven for their uninspiring goalless draw with Ecuador in the final round of group games (Didier Deschamps' side had already qualified for the knockout stage) and their form in the first two clashes suggest goals won't be hard to come by for the 1998 winners.

Germania v Algeria, Porto Alegre, 1900

No team in Brazil has completed more passes than Germany's 1,844 so far, which is even more remarkable when you factor in their impressive 90% pass completion rate - the joint highest success rate in the tournament, along with Italy.

Analysis of Algeria shows a rather different story: only six teams attempted less than their 894 passes, and their 81% success rate is the worst of any team in the knockout stages.

Expect Germany to dominate the ball in this encounter much like Belgium did in their opener with Vahid Halilhodzic's men, when the Red Devils made 526 passes to Algeria's 169 but struggled to find a way through a well organised backline for the majority of the match.

One step forward, two steps back
With such a high pass count, it's inevitable that Germany cannot go forward with every pass. In fact, they had the joint second highest percentage of backwards passes at 34%, behind the Spanish.

Surprisingly, the three-time winners only played forward with 55% of their passes, the second lowest percentage in the competition - despite the high goal count in this tournament, it seems Joachim Low's side are willing to be patient.

Algeria, albeit for different reasons, only played forward with 54% of their passes - the lowest share in the competition, along with Chile and South Korea. Against a Germany side who command possession, few would expect that statistic to improve here.

He shoots, he scores
So what carried Algeria through if it wasn't their intricate passing or attacking philosophy? The answer could be their shooting. With a 25% conversion rate, they rank third in the competition, behind the free-scoring double act of the Netherlands and Colombia.

But with an average of just eight shots per match - the fifth lowest - Algeria's problem it would seem is getting into those positions in the first place.

For Germany, scoring hasn't been a problem: they also boast an intimidating shot conversion ratio of 21% which ranks them fifth. With one in five shots finding the back of the net, Algeria will have to improve upon their average of 10 shots faced per game to have a chance in this tie.

Summary
As you would expect, the statistics heading into the clash weigh heavily in Germany's favour, but Algeria should take heart from their performance against Belgium in the Group Stage. This clash could well follow a similar path, with Germany dominating the ball while the well-organised Algerians sit back and look to counter.