by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 21st 2014)
African Champions Nigeria resurrected their hopes of qualification with an impressive performance against World Cup Finals débutants Bosnia-Herzegovina. Stoke Cityʼs Peter Odemwingie scored the matchʼs only goal, although Manchester Cityʼs Edin Džeko had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside.
Replays proved that the officials led by New Zealander Peter OʼLeary were wrong. Both the referee and his assistant were in perfectly good position to see that Džekoʼs goal should have stood – yet another poor decision by the officials.
As the match was drawing to a close Džeko, who had been profligate, especially by his high standards, turned and shot. Lilleʼs Vincent Enyeama saved with his leg onto his post. Replays established that OʼLeary had missed a blatant hand ball by Džeko to control it when turning to shoot. It was a bookable offence.
Nigeriaʼs victory was their first at this stage for 16 years and its was deserved – they were by far the better team. Emmanuel Emenike – anonymous against Iran was galvanised to justify his tag as potential star of the tournament. Targeting Bosnian captain Emir Spahić, Emenike out-muscled the Bayer Leverkusen defender and pulled it back for Odemwingie to shoot between Asmir Begovićʼs legs for the only goal of the match – the one that condemns Bosnia-Herzegovina to elimination at the group stage.
While Begović excelled and Romaʼs Miralem Pjanić pulled strings to supply Džeko, the Manchester City forward found Enyeama equal to his efforts. Musa was denied by Begović twice and John Mikel Obi hit the side-netting from 20 yards out. Pjanić brought a smart save from Enyeama.
Meanwhile, Spahić was proving to be a liability. His dreadful pass after just 6 minutes gave possession to CSKA Moscowʼs Ahmed Musa. Haris Medunjanin was booked for hauling Musa back. Odemwingieʼs free-kick went close, but a clear deflection for a corner was missed by the officials. Spahić would later be out-muscled by Emenike for the goal.
Nigeria in particular chased more with efforts by Emenike, Michel Babatunde and Lazioʼs Ogenyi Onaze thwarted by Begović. Enyeama proved to be an effective final barrier too with his second clean sheet afte, r denying Pjanić and Džeko after the break. Only a Iranian victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina can deny the Super-Eagles a place in the last 16. With a likely clash against a rampant France in store for the second placed team in Group F, Stephen Keshi knows that a victory over group favourites Argentina would be welcome, providing an extra incentive if one were needed not to settle for a draw.