Evra fights his way out of French sin bin

The Manchester United defender is enjoying an international renaissance at World Cup 2014, four years on from his pivotal role when French players went on strike in South Africa.

Evra fights his way out of French sin bin
Patrice Evra (L) and French coach Didier Deschamps (R) during training at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. AFP Photo/Franck Fife

Four years ago Patrice Evra faced deep trouble as a ringleader of striking French footballers. Today he is a moral force again in the dressing room and confidently holding off pretenders to his place on the pitch.

As France go into a difficult World Cup second round match with Nigeria on Monday, Evra may no longer be the captain but he will have a key role in coach Didier Deschamps' defence.

After a string of sparkling performances, French fans believe their team are winners again. Other countries will be looking to see if Les Bleus can confirm this against the African champions.

Evra, now 33, is lucky to be playing at the World Cup. In 2010, he was the captain who led a team protest after Nicolas Anelka was sent home for an ugly showdown with coach Raymond Domenech. France exited in disgrace and the Manchester United full back was suspended for five internationals.

His outspoken comments have also made headlines in France. He notably lambasted four television commentators, including former World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu, as a "parasite" last October when they criticized a half-time team-talk he gave.

"If a journalist stings me, I know how to answer," Evra told a recent World Cup press conference which was dominated by his renewed influential role.

Evra has come back and though current coach Deschamps said the Senegalese-born player could never be his captain the respect between the two is clear to see and which dates back to when he played under him at Monaco and they reached the Champions League final in 2004.

"Nothing's ever certain with Deschamps," said Evra, who was switched to left back by Deschamps from his then favoured left wing role when at Monaco.

"That's why I like to work with him. He never gives you presents.

"He'll look you in the eyes and say, 'Pat, if you mess up I won't spare you'. I know that if I step out of line I'm out of this team."

Evra has in turn earned praise for the way he has shepherded younger players. The team's elder statesman stepped in to calm midfielder Paul Pogba when he appeared close to a red card against Honduras in their Group E game.

Other players also pay tribute to Evra's role in the dressing room building the team unity that is so important to France's style.

"Just because I am not skipper doesn't mean that I will not fulfil my role on the pitch or in the dressing room," he said,

And Evra has also been delivering on the pitch as well. Having already seen off the challenge of Gael Clichy for the left-back spot, he is now keeping 21-year-old Paris St Germain defender Lucas Digne on the sidelines.

Evra says he has the "impression of being eight years old" and he ran and tackled during France's 5-2 win against Switzerland as fast and as determinedly as the youngest in the team.

At Manchester United, Evra now faces competition from 18-year-old England starlet Luke Shaw. But he has signed for one more year with the English giants, indicating he is ready to fight for his place. The defender also scored with a screaming 25 metre shot against Bayern Munich in the Champions League in April.

Evra said that being captain sucked all the air out of him. "Now I still give everything for the others, but I get energy in return," he said.

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France beat Nigeria 2-0 to book place in quarters

France beat Nigeria 2-0 on Monday to set up a World Cup quarter final clash with Germany in Rio di Janeiro on Friday. Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus side needed two late goals to see off a stubborn Nigeria.

France beat Nigeria 2-0 to book place in quarters
The Local is live tweeting from Paris's Hôtel de Ville, where thousands are gathered to watch France play. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

A Paul Pogba header and a Joseph Yobo own goal saw France edge a hard-fought contest with Nigeria 2-0 in Brasilia on Monday to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Pogba broke the deadlock in the 79th minute, nodding into an empty net after Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who plays for French club Lille, failed to collect a corner.

It was a cruel moment for Enyeama, but rewarded a barrage of French pressure sparked by the introduction of Antoine Griezmann, who forced Yobo to put through his own goal in injury time.

Didier Deschamps's France will now play Germany at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on July 4.

African champions Nigeria, meanwhile, must wait to sample the last eight at a World Cup, following defeat in their first knockout-phase match at the tournament since the 1998 competition in France.

Stephen Keshi's side nonetheless departed to the sound of warm applause from the fans crammed into the cavernous Mane Garrincha National Stadium, who allied themselves with Nigeria's cause from the off.

While France, who showed six changes, started purposefully, their final ball frequently let them down, which handed Nigeria opportunities to use their pace on the counter-attack.

Emmanuel Emenike thought he had put Nigeria ahead in the 19th minute when he deftly prodded in an in-swinging cross from Ahmed Musa, but the offside flag allowed French heart rates to return to normal.

France looked more threatening when they were able to bring the recalled Mathieu Valbuena into the game.

When the Marseille midfielder teed up Pogba for a vicious volley mid-way through the first half, it took a stunning reflex save from Enyeama to keep the game scoreless.

Onazi stretchered off 

Another intelligent pass from Valbuena then gave Mathieu Debuchy a sight of goal, but the Newcastle United right-back drilled wide.

Late in the first half Emenike took aim from range, but Hugo Lloris was able to parry.

Nigeria suffered a blow early in the second period when Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi had to be stretchered off after an ugly, ankle-high challenge by Blaise Matuidi, who escaped with only a caution.

Faced with growing Nigeria pressure, Deschamps introduced Griezmann in place of Olivier Giroud with half an hour to play and the move quickly paid immediate dividends.

After Lloris had saved from Peter Odemwingie, a one-two between Karim Benzema and Griezmann set the Real Madrid man clear, but although he squeezed the ball past Enyeama, Victor Moses was on hand to hook clear.

It was to prove a temporary reprieve.

Yohan Cabaye, back from suspension, saw a 20-yard half-volley crash back off the bar before Enyeama had to produce a finger-tip save to touch a Benzema header over the bar.

It was the second fine stop of the match from the 31-year-old, but secondslater his failure to claim Valbuena's left-wing corner allowed Juventus midfielder Pogba to head in at the back post.

Enyeama then palmed a shot from Griezmann over the bar, but France made it 2-0 at the death when Yobo, under pressure from Griezmann, inadvertentlysteered Valbuena's drilled cross into his own net.

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