It was a bitter end to Super Eagles’ World Cup run at Brasilia as the team fell to a Paul Pogba header and a Joseph Yobo own goal in Brasilia.
The African champions were bidding to reach their first ever quarter final place, but injury to Ogenyi Onazi in the second half saw them lose control of midfield to Les Bleus who took advantage and made them pay.
Vincent Enyeama failed to deal with a corner kick which fell to Pogba and the youngster did not make any mistakes in nodding home from close.
Minutes later, under pressure from substitute Antoine Griezmann, Yobo, who made his 100th appearance for Nigeria, sent in a cross off his shin.
It looked like the Super Eagles would take the game to France early as they dominated possession and had an Emmanuel Emenike goal disallowed for offside.
France’s charge was led from midfield with youngster Pogba claiming a save off Enyeama after making a great run through the middle. The Juventus man edged the battle with Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel for most of the game.
It was the former World champions who held on to claim a late victory as Nigeria conceded the midfield after Garbiel Reuben came on in place of the injured Onazi in the second half.
Stephen Keshi’s brave side collapsed amid the renewed energy of the French after Olivier Giroud made way for Griezmann.
They had their chances though, with Peter Odemwingie and Emenike both getting saves off Hugo Lloris.
But wingers Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses looked tame in attack, with the former unable to revive the form that saw him score twice against Argentina.
Musa’s free kicks were also a let down to the side as they failed to trouble the French defense manned by Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny.
Even though the score line looked one sided, the match was widely open for most of 70 minutes until Nigeria collapsed.
While Didier Deschamps’ men make their way forward in the competition, there will be questions asked of the Super Eagles’ campaign.
Financial wrangling after qualifying for the second round sent out vibes that it was a side that had already conceded the game before playing it.
The decision of Keshi to refuse calling up some big name players would also creep into conversations in coming days.
Would things have been different if Keshi had taken a more experienced set of players?
Whatever the back lash, it is important to look at a side that reached the second round after 16 years even in the face of strong odds against them.
Nigeria can be rest assured that they have a big pool of players to choose from in future and see this as a learning curve.
However for players like Yobo and Odemwingie, this might be the last major championship for them.
They have been worthy servants of their country and must now leave the stage for a younger generation to take over.