The Stoke City forward has been a divisive figure since returning to the national team. Can he repay Stephen Keshi's faith by starting (and starring) against Bosnia?
By James Ezimoha
The confusion over Peter Odemwingie's level of productivity for Nigeria returns as they prepare to face Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday evening.
The agitation within the Nigerian football scene for the inclusion of Odemwingie in the World Cup party was something never quite seen before. The Stoke forward is undoubtedly a loose cannon, but his brilliant conclusion to the last English Premier League season left fans, former internationals and some, if not most, Nigeria Football Federation officials clamouring for his inclusion in Stephen Keshi's 30-man provisional squad.
Keshi is only human. He yielded.
He had to give 'the people' something to cheer about after waving-off similar pressure for the inclusion of Ikechukwu Uche.
Odemwingie's return to the national team setup, which was heralded by all and sundry as a step in the right direction, earned him the name 'the prodigal son'. However, his quivery performances since returning have left many bewildered by his non-impact.
Odemwingie | Struggling to recreate his Premier League form for Nigeria
His first game, against Scotland, was the one that got the fans cheering. During the cameo, he dazzled, whetted the appetite and reminded Nigerians of what they had been missing during his absence. Although he didn't score, it was a delightful home-coming.
As reward for his exciting displays against Scotland, Keshi gave the forward a proper chance to shine with a place in the starting XI against Greece. Unfortunately, he didn't quite read the script.
Odemwingie struggled. He huffed and puffed for 54 minutes before being whisked off.
At that point, many began to wonder if they made the right choice by persistently asking for his inclusion in the team. However, despite the unforeseen failings, the final nail on the coffin was to come in the game against the Untied States, which served as the final preparatory match before the Eagles jetted off to Brazil.
The story didn't quite change against the USA either as he looked uncomfortable and jittery. Twitter was agog with all manner of criticisms for the former-West Bromwich Albion man’s unexpected show of ineffectiveness; being played out of his favourite position didn't do his case any favours.
Again, despite the shortcomings, Nigerians kept faith. After all, there was no way he could be sent home again by that point!
The tournament kicked-off in Brazil, and finally, it was Nigeria's turn to impose themselves on a match, with Iran at the door.
The Euphoria is dripping away from the Osaze Return
Surprisingly for some, Odemwingie was not in the starting line-up for the match against Team Melli. The contest turned out to be a damp squib, despite the pre-match forecasts of bravado from Nigeria fans. The Super Eagles lacked bite, inspiration and, most of all, goals. All they could muster eventually was a disappointing draw with Carlos Queiroz’s side.
A line-up that featured a front-four of Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike, Ahmed Musa and Ramon Azeez couldn't break down the resilient Iranian defence.
They toiled against the 'mighty' Iran for the entire first-half and still couldn't find a way. During the interval, with fans growing increasingly agitated over the lack of invention and creativity in the team, calls for Odemwingie arose, again. And this time, the uproar was more intense, particularly as Nigeria couldn't afford to miss the great opportunity to close-in on Argentina who had earlier won their game against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
He was needed to spice-up the attack, and spice-up the attack, he did. His introduction in the 69th minute threatened to give the Eagles the dynamism which had been lacking throughout.
Odemwingie was alive.
His pace and trickery breathed life into Nigeria's attack. For the remaining 20 minutes (plus added time), he seemed the missing piece to the entire display.
The final judgement from several quarters-after the uninspiring draw-was that had Odemwingie started right from the kick-off, with this creativity, bag of tricks, sharp running and movement, Nigeria could have received much more than they eventually did against Iran.
However, despite the endeavours of the 33-year-old and the satisfactory pass mark from the fans, the Big Boss was nowhere near pleased. In Monday's press conference he said: "Osaze did not play to my instruction when he replaced Azeez. He would have done better if he did against the Iranians."
This mark of disapproval from the coach to what many believed was a much better performance to that of Azeez, for example, seemed to have poured cold water on a particularly interesting question: is Osaze Odemwingie at his best starting from the bench or right from the kick-off?
What do you think?