COMMENT: The Stoke forward made the difference with his goal in his nation’s slim victory against Bosnia on Saturday as the Super Eagles won their first World Cup game since 1998By Lolade Adewuyi in Cuiaba
Nigeria won their first World Cup game in 16 years courtesy of Peter Odemwingie’s solitary strike against Bosnia-Herzegovinaon Saturday.
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In a match played at near-walking pace at points in the sweltering heat of Cuiaba, with numerous water breaks, 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 his side's hero as they put their campaign back on track ahead of their final group meeting with Argentina.
Keshi opted to leave out Liverpool’s Victor Moses, who had a poor game and showed an even poorer attitude during their spiritless draw with Iran.
He also dropped youngster Ramon Azeez to the bench while defender Godfrey Oboabona was still absent through injury.
In came Odemwingie, Michael Babatunde and captain Joseph Yobo, who is inching nearer to his hundredth cap for his national team.
Nigeria started more confidently 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 the striker burst on to the end of a pass to shoot home, but the referee ajudged it offside.
The Africa Cup of Nations champions would later profit from this as they took the lead via Odemwingie, who slipped the ball 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.
In an open encounter, unlike the Africans' previous game with Iran, Bosnia searched for the equaliser but Dzeko failed to beat Enyeama with the last chance of the match.
The Lille goalkeeper stuck out a leg to keep the ball out, which then ricocheted off the upright and away to safety.
Susic’s men looked to run out of ideas for many periods in the encounter and will be deeply disappointed to have ended their first World Cup campaign with two losses.
Following their impressive game against Argentina, much was expected of them in this encounter but Bosnia could not break down a compact Nigerian team that was content to counter-attack and defend in numbers. They will now face Iran in their final game, and will be fighting for pride alone.
Nigeria, meanwhile, will head to Porto Alegre to face the Albiceleste, who have already qualified for the second round.
The Super Eagles, on the other hand, require just a point to reach the knock out stages for the first time in 16 years.
But back in Nigeria, the name on everyone’s lips was Odemwingie.