With France enjoying an impressive World Cup campaign thus far, the side face high expectations ahead of Monday’s last-16 tie with Nigeria.
Having needed a dramatic playoff victory over Ukraine to make it to Brazil, Didier Deschamps’ team have looked like one of the tournament’s most dynamic outfits on their way to topping Group E, although midfielder Yohan Cabaye believes that they should be taking things step-by-step at this stage.
‘I think that being ambitious is absolutely fine. That is why we are here,’ he said. ‘But I think that it is a bit too much to say that we have to win the World Cup. Monday we will play to qualify for the next round and so will Nigeria. It is pass or fail.
‘Our goal is to carry on of course. We always want to win but, even with our current collective spirit, determination and qualities on the pitch, we might still play against a team that is stronger than us. At that point we would need to accept that we would be out of the competition.’
Playing in his first World Cup, Cabaye has earned 32 caps since making his France debut in 2010, establishing himself as a regular in the side over the past few years with his impressive all-round skill and solid work-rate in the heart of the lineup.
A Premier League stalwart for over two seasons at Newcastle United, the 28-year-old made a £19 million move to big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain in the January transfer window, after a much-publicised potential switch to Arsenal failed to materialise last August.
Set to return to the starting XI, after missing the final group game with Ecuador due to suspension, Cabaye and France go into the match against Nigeria as clear favourites, with a clash against Germany or Algeria awaiting the winners in the quarter-finals.
Looking to make amends for the South Africa 2010 debacle, which saw the side crash out of the group stage after a mutiny against manager Raymond Domenech, the 1998 winners are a unified camp this time around and, despite the urge for caution, enter the knockout stages looking like a team with real chance of adding a second World Cup title to their collection.