Decked out in his canary yellow kit for the France vs. Nigeria match, Super Eagles goaltender Vincent Enyeama could have very well been named the Man of the Match despite a losing effort by his team in the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup.
He had some help along the way as France struck the woodwork and had a few unlucky bounces, but Enyeama kept a team that was largely outmatched and outclassed in the game until the 79th minute against a dominant French squad. The Nigerian keeper continually foiled French attacks, making a few highlight reel saves along the way.
Nigeria’s fortunes may have been different as the second half opened if it weren’t for a missed call in the first half by the referee. On a corner kick for Nigeria in the 39th minute, France’s Patrice Evra bear-hugged Peter Odemwingie in the box. Had this not happened, Odemwingie may have been able to get a header on net for Nigeria. It was an obvious foul, and a penalty kick should have been awarded to the team in green.
In the end, Nigeria were the underdogs in this match. They had a favorable showing in the tournament, but in all fairness, they probably would not have even reached the Round of 16 if it weren’t for Enyeama’s play in this tournament. He shut out both Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the group stages before Lionel Messi got the best of him in Nigeria’s contest with Argentina.
In the knockout rounds, playing to a draw is useless. Enyeama needed his teammates to do a better job finishing on the attack. The Nigerian keeper’s failure to punch a ball out of the box with a closed fist in the 79th minute off a French corner sealed his team’s fate. It was this error that did not clear the ball, but instead deflected it right onto the ambitiously awaiting head of Paul Pogba, who headed it home to break the deadlock and advance France to the quarter finals.