- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama had become expert at repelling French players, keeping a remarkable 21 clean sheets for Lille in the league last season and going more than 1,000 minutes without conceding a goal.

At the World Cup, though, he couldn’t keep up the resistance.

After making a string of crucial saves in Nigeria’s tense second-round match against France on Monday, Enyeama flapped at a corner in front of a mass of bodies and parried the ball straight to Paul Pogba lurking at the back post.

The Juventus midfielder duly scored France’s pivotal first goal in the 79th minute on the way to a 2-0 win in Brasilia.

It was a cruel way for Enyeama’s World Cup to end as he had been one of the tournament’s best goalkeepers, perhaps rivaling Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa. For all his great saves, Enyeama will likely be remembered for his error against the French.

“That moment, it is only him who can decide the reason he parried the ball,” Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. “I can’t tell you, his decision is final. What happened, happened. But it cost us big.”

Any criticism of Enyeama must be tempered by what he had produced for Nigeria before his mistake.

He kept clean sheets against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the group stage, with the only goals he conceded coming against a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina in a 3-2 defeat.

And against France, Enyeama was outstanding for 78 minutes, saving brilliantly from Pogba’s volley in the first half and then denying Karim Benzema in a one-on-one chance and from a bullet header that he tipped over the bar.

“He has been fantastic for us,” Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel said. “He has been such a great goalkeeper and some of the saves he has made today were fantastic.”

But he blotted his performance with his first big mistake in Brazil.

“He obviously felt he could come for the ball,” Nigeria teammate Shola Ameobi said. “On another day, it falls to one of our players. It’s just a rub of the green.”

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