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Nigeria blues for Les Bleus after shock loss

JOSEPH Akpala was the only scorer as Nigeria's Super Eagles beat France 1-0 in a friendly in Saint-Etienne on Tuesday.

France had the better of the early chances but Nicolas Anelka and Franck Ribery were both thwarted by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama before Akpala scored in the 32nd minute from close range.

Loic Remy hit the post late for France, but coach Raymond Domenech's team was outplayed for much of the match and French fans chanted for Domenech to resign toward the end.

"That's one of the worst halves I've seen," Domenech said on French television at halftime. "It's worrying."

Midway through the first half, after Anelka and Ribery were blocked by Enyeama, Nigeria broke quickly on attack.

Ikechukwu Uche burst past Patrice Evra down the left and his shot was saved by goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, only for the ball to clip the post, hit Mandanda on his back and roll invitingly across goal to give Akpala a tap-in from one yard.

France next plays Turkey in Lyon tomorrow, giving Domenech a chance to win back the fans, while Nigeria takes on Kenya in a World Cup qualifier at home in Abuja on Sunday.

France was missing Chelsea winger Florent Malouda with a calf strain, but Inter Milan midfielder Patrick Vieira lasted the full 90 minutes in only his third appearance for France in the past 18 months.

"On a personal level I am satisfied. It's important to play," Vieira said after his 107th appearance for France. "We have to keep working hard and not give up. It's a shame the fans jeered us."

However, Vieira accepted that Les Bleus performed badly.

"Physically and tactically they are strong. But we got it wrong tactically," Vieira said. "We created chances but didn't score. It's true that it was an average performance."

France players took the field with their names in Braille on the back of their jerseys, marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of French inventor Louis Braille.

Braille, who was born in 1809 and blinded three years later, invented a system used by the blind for reading and writing which has since been adapted to almost every known language.


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