Nigeria won their first World Cup game in 16 years courtesy of Peter Odemwingie’s solitary strike against Bosnia-Herzegovinaon Saturday.
The forward combined with striker Emmanuel Emenike to make a nuisance of the Bosnian defence and score in the 29th minute of the encounter.
Played sometimes at walking pace in the sweltering heat of Cuiaba with many a water break, Stephen Keshi’s gamble to take the Stoke City forward to the tournament paid off.
After more than two years in exile, the 32-year-old was the hero of his side as they put their campaign back on track ahead of their final group meeting with Argentina.
Keshi opted to drop Liverpool’s Victor Moses, who had a poor game and a poorer attitude during their soulless draw with Iran.
He also dropped youngster Ramon Azeez to the bench while defender Godfrey Oboabona continued to stay out due to injury.
In came Odemwingie, Michael Babatunde and captain Joseph Yobo, who is inching near his record century caps for the national team.
Nigeria started the more confident against Safet Susic’s side but saw Ahmed Musa fail to get on the end of an early Emenike cross.
The Bosnian attack spearheaded by Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko looked quiet until he burst on to the end of a pass to shoot home but the referee called it for offside.
Time to rejoice | Team spirit has been high
The African champions would profit from this as they took the lead via Odemwingie who slipped it beneath the legs of Stoke team mate Asmir Begovic after great work from Emenike down the flanks set him free.
Nigeria managed to keep their lead after they saw a series of shots on goal by Ogenyi Onazi and Babatunde kept out by Begovic.
An open encounter unlike the Africans' last game with Iran, Bosnia searched for the equalizer but Dzeko failed to beat Enyeama in what was the last chance of the match.
The Lille goalkeeper stuck out a leg to keep out the ball which then rang off the upright for a corner kick.
Susic’s men looked to run out of ideas for many periods in the encounter and would feel very bad to have ended their first World Cup campaign with two quick losses.
Following their impressive game against Argentina, much was expected of them in this one but they could not break down the Nigerian team that played compact, content to counter-attack and defend in number.
They face Iran in their final game, to fight for pride and nothing more. From what one saw of Team Melli against Argentina earlier, it would be difficult for them to get a win in that one with the Persians still in the competition.
Nigeria will head to Porto Alegre to face the Albiceleste who have already qualified for the second round.
Their rivalry with Lionel Messi and his counterparts would be reawakened as they require just a point to reach the knock out stages for the first time in 16 years.
Back home, the name on everyone’s lips in the morning would be Odemwingie. It will be okay to forgive them as they forget the decision made by Keshi to bring him back.
A gamble which is looking great already.