Your daily World Cup tip sheet for who's playing when, and what to watch for. We'll deliver a new briefing the evening before every game day, setting up the matches and pinpointing the underlying storylines.
France vs. Nigeria
Les Bleus pretty much mailed it in against Ecuador in the final match of the group stage, with manager Didier Deschamps making six changes to his starting lineup. The result was a predictable lacklustre draw, but the French had already done more than enough in Brazil to show they are a contender. The team responded to the news that star winger Franck Ribery’s back injury would keep him out of the tournament by scoring eight goals in the first two matches, including an impressive 5-2 dismantling of Switzerland. Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has three of those markers and has looked dangerous every time he gets the ball. Four years ago France suffered through a nightmare World Cup that included a player rebellion and first-round exit. Deschamps’s men look up to the task of erasing those memories in Brazil. Nigeria will hope to counter the French attack with a defence-first style that relies on stout defending from the back four and great goaltending from Vincent Enyeama. CSKA Moscow winger Ahmed Musa struck for two goals against Argentina and the Super Eagles could use another strong performance from him. Fenerbache striker Emmanuel Emenike has also drawn positive reviews for his work up front.
Germany vs. Algeria
A complete mismatch on paper, with one side feeling like they belong in the final match of the tournament while the other is just happy to make the knockout stage for the first time. Bayern Munich striker Thomas Mueller has been a goal-scoring machine for the Germans, who won a difficult Group G with their quality and depth. The Desert Foxes have been an inspiring bunch to watch in Brazil, playing a disciplined team game that focuses on defence. Their best chance here is to defend, defend, defend and hope to catch the Germans on the counter-attack or score from a set-piece. History says it can be done: the most famous soccer win in Algerian history is a 2-1 win over West Germany in the group stage of the 1982 World Cup.
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