France - Nigeria

France national team won’t play competitive games in this period. They’ll use two friendlies, Nigeria tonight in St Etienne and Turkey in Lyon three days later, to prepare for games against Faroe Islands and Romania. France started recent qualifying campaign “as usual”, loosing in the first round against Austria on the road (1-3), then made a draw in Romania, a win at home against Serbia and a double against Lithuania. They’re second in the group and at least play-off is secured. The game in Belgrade, against Serbia will probably decide the direct traveler to South Africa. For this game Raymond Domenech called 25 players, 12 for domain league. He decided to call back two players. Veteran, 32-year-old Patrick Vieira, has played only two friendlies for France in the past 18 months, missing Euro 2008 and all the World Cup qualifiers so far. Second one is more reasonable. With his excellent performances under the guidance of Guus Hiddink, Florent Malouda left Domenech with almost no choice but to recall him. Thierry Henry has been ruled out with a sore knee and no replacement has been named. Beside usual motives, some of the key players (in fact, maybe half of the team) have not found their new clubs and will certainly try to show themselves in the best shape. Atmosphere in St Etienne will be more noisy and less friendly than in Paris.

The Super Eagles are using this match to prepare for Sunday's 2010 World Cup qualifier against Kenya. At Friday, they played equal 1-1 against Ireland at Fulham’s stadium. Team’s good performance stayed in the shadow of the clash national coach Shuaibu Amodu on one side and angry supporters and Nigeria’s journalist who demand his dismissal, on the other. The reason is goalless draw against Mozambique in their opening World Cup qualifier. Additional problem for Amodu is missing players. Obafemi Martins and Chinedu Obasi have left the squad because the injuries. Michael Eneramo, who impressed in Friday's draw, will not feature too. Defender Joseph Yobo and midfielder John Mikel Obi - both involved in FA Cup action on Saturday - joined the squad on Sunday, but the question is are these two mentally and physically prepared for national team friendly. Players are happy to have opportunity to face one of the best World teams. Amodu have been trying to decrease player’s enthusiasm repeating this game is just preparation for Kenya. In that purpose, maybe he’ll change something in the first eleven.

Although it seems the press decrease the pressure on Domenech, ‘cause the bad start in campaign and not so good team performances, any result except victory can bring a bad atmosphere before the decisive games in group 7. France will have the best eleven (excluding Henry) and they’re much better side. Pinnacle offers 1.62. As a gamble I take x-1, ht/ft, odds around 4.60. Home win.


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