Eagles celebrate their win over Bosnia … on Saturday|credits:AFP
Osaze Odemwingie scored the only goal to give Nigeria a victory that means World Cup debutants Bosnia – Hercegovina will not progress from Group F. The Stoke player struck in the first half in Porto Alegre to give Nigeria their first win at a World Cup finals since 1998.
The goal came just seven minutes after Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside.
Nigeria will reach the knockout stages if they get a point against Argentina, or if Iran fail to beat Bosnia.
Odemwingie’s decisive strike came just a month after he returned to the Nigeria squad following a two-year absence caused by a dispute with coach Stephen Keshi.
Knowing they needed a win to stay in their first World Cup finals, Bosnia attacked from the start but were vulnerable in defence, with Odemwingie, John Mikel Obi and Michael Babatunde all squandering early chances for Nigeria.
Bosnia briefly thought they had taken the lead when Dzeko latched onto a pass from Miralem Pjanic, but the Manchester City forward was denied by an offside flag, though replays suggested he had timed his run well.
The Super Eagles made the most of the let-off as Emmanuel Emenike powered past Emir Spahic on the right before finding Odemwingie, who shot through the legs of his Stoke team-mate Asmir Begovic to score.
Pjanic stood out with a string of perceptive passes, but Dzeko in particular could not capitalise on the Roma midfielder’s fine work, spurning more opportunities before half-time.
Nigeria absorbed Bosnian pressure early in the second half, but they counter attacked effectively and came close to going further ahead when Babatunde and Emenike forced saves from Begovic in quick succession.
Bosnia continued to press, but substitute Vedad Ibisevic, who came off the bench to score in the defeat by Argentina, wasted a chance to equalise when he bundled a cross wide despite finding space in the area.
And, with seconds of injury time remaining, Dzeko scuffed a shot which Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama deflected onto the post and away to safety.
Nigeria coach, Stephen Keshi, said his side could only get better.
“The main thing is that we won and everybody is happy. Well, we had chances too. You need luck in life, so if it’s luck, I’ll take it,” Keshi, Nigeria’s captain at their first outing at the event in 1994, said.
“ I think we are getting better with every game. It’s not easy. We’ve been out for three months and we’re just coming back. It’s going to come, the rhythm is going to come”
Nigeria striker Odemwingie was happy to have scored the winner that ended Nigeria’s winless streak since 1998.
He said, “It’s been 16 years with no victory for our fans. We had to work hard for this, they (Bosnia) are a quality team.
“We are happy to bounce back after what people thought was a poor performance in the first game. It was very important to win.
“From now on we’re looking upwards. Hopefully these three points will get us through to the second round.”
But Bosnia-Hercegovina coach Safet Susic expressed disappointment at the result.
“I don’t have any recriminations. They are all depressed, disappointed, silent. They (Nigeria) surprised us with their speed and movement. They wanted to win probably that much more than us.
“I was told there was no offside. But this is not the first or last refereeing mistake, not just at the World Cup or elsewhere.”
Ex-Nigeria midfielder, Austin Okocha, who represented the country in three World Cups, said on Supersport, “It was an improved performance by Nigeria and after the criticisms against coach Stephen Keshi, he now has to take the credit.”