Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said victory over France on Monday for a place in the last eight of the 2014 World Cup is “non-negotiable”.
“I said before the tournament that our mentality must be strong. Our approach to every match has always been the same: to win,” Keshi restated.
“Whether we are playing against Spain at the FIFA Confederations Cup or playing against Liberia in a friendly match, I always tell the boys that victory is non–negotiable.
“For us, we will go into Monday’s match aiming to win. But as I also said before the competition, we take it one match at a time.
“We don’t even want to think of who might be lurking in the quarter finals if we win; we are not bothered. All we know is that we must win on Monday.”
African champions Nigeria are the apparent underdogs in Monday’s round of 16 battle in Brasilia.
Les Bleus expectedly finished top of Group E with seven points, following wins over Honduras and Switzerland and a draw with Ecuador, and boast an embarrassment of talent in all departments.
Nigeria, who flew into Brazil’s administrative capital on Friday, bidding a final bye to their Team Base Camp (Vitoria Hotel Concept) in Campinas as they begin the run of ‘venue hopping’, finished second of Group F with four points after drawing with Iran, pipping Bosnia-Herzegovina and a narrow defeat by Argentina.
There is only one recorded clash between Nigeria and France at senior level, and that was a friendly on June 2, 2009, which the Super Eagles won by a goal scored by Joseph Akpala.
On Monday, it is a new day and a different temperament when the Eagles take the pitch against the 1998 world champions at the magnificent Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha.
The 72,000–capacity venue is the second largest at the 2014 World Cup, coming behind the fabled Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, which can seat 79,000 spectators.
France left the last FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa in disgrace, after unexpected group stage elimination surrounded by crass player-indiscipline and subsequent sanctions on some of their star performers.
Coach Didier Deschamps did much to revamp the soul and spirit of the squad and a number of young guns aim to blot that unflattering record by going all the way in South America.