Claiming their first World Cup win since 1998, African champions Nigeria kept their knockout round hopes alive, while today’s loss in Cuiabá, Brazil, doomed tournament debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina’s to a group stage exit. Thanks to a 29th minute goal from Peter Odemwingie, the Super Eagles earned a 1-0 win at Arena Pantanal, moving the Nigerians into second in their group. Bosnia, on the other hand, sit at the bottom of Group F, with two losses in as many games eliminating their chance to advance to the knockout round.
That reality will be a controversial one thanks to two first half officiating decisions that went against . In the 21st minute, and Eden Dzeko goal was not allowed to stand, though replays showed the assistant referee’s offside call was likely incorrect. Eight minutes later, play was allowed to continue after Bosnia captain Emir Saphic’s leg tangled with Emmanuel Emineke’s. The resulting play saw Odemwingie score the game-winning goal.
Now behind Argentina in Group F, Nigeria face the Albiceleste on their group stage finale on Wednesday in Porto Alegre. Bosnia and Herzegovina will conclude their World Cup against Iran, kicking off at the same time in Salvador.
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]
A game that set up before kickoff as control versus counter played up to expectations over the first half-hour, with Bosnia’ss kill in the middle of the field pitted against the threat Nigeria posed in transition with its three-ponged attack. In the 21st minute, the balance appeared to swing in Bosnia’s favor when a quick movement from Miralem Pjanic, through Zvjezdan Misimovic, to Edin Dzeko produced an apparent goal. When the assistant referee’s flag went up, judging Dzeko offside, the match remained scoreless.
Eight minutes later, that changed, with another point of controversy breaking in Nigeria’s favor. Having drifted wide right, striker Emmanuel Emineke turned to take on Bosnia captain Emir Sephic. Approaching the Bosnian penalty area, Sephic went down, his feet tangling with Emineke’s as the duo pursued a ball rolled into the box. When no foul was called, Emineke was allowed to find Odemwingie in front of goal for the close-range finish.
Despite the deficit, Bosnia’s control of the ball persisted into the second, but matching their opponent’s chances, Nigeria were able to balance play in transition. When that balance continued into the 57th minute, Safet Susic changed his team, brining in a second forward (Vedad Ibisevic) as his team tried to avoid elimination.
Those changes couldn’t prevent the match’s next opportunity from falling to Nigeria, with Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic called into action when Michel Babatunde was allowed to take his chances from just outside the penalty box. After a parry from the keep, play eventually moved to the left of goal, where Begovic came off his line to cut down the angles for Emineke. Nigeria was prevented from doubling their league, but nearly 20 minutes into the period, the Super Eagles were creating the half’s better chances.
Bosnia’s next chance for an equalizer didn’t come until the 75th minute, when Ibisevic’s open header off a corner kick failed to draw a save from Vincent Enyeama. In the 81st minute, however, Ogenyi Onazi drew a diving stop from Begovic, while, moments later, Emineke shot just outside the right post. Despite Bosnia’s increased urgency, the best chances were still falling to Nigeria.
In stoppage time, however, Dzeko nearly took a point for Bosnia. In the 91st minute, on the second ball in from a corner kick, Dzeko headed a seven-yard shot right to Enyeama, while a 93rd chance from the middle of the area saw the Nigerian keeper deflect the ball onto his right post.
Come full-time, the first half’s two moments of controversy were all that separated the two sides, leaving the Bosnians to rue what might have been. Nigeria, on the other hand, can build on their first World Cup win in 16 years as they prepare for their group stage finale against Argentina.
Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Yobo, Omeruo; Mikel, Onazi; Musa (Ameobi 65′), Odemwingie, Babatunde (Uzoenyi 75′); Enemike
Goals: Odemwingie 29′
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Begovic; Mujdza, Sunjic, Spahic, Lulic (Salihovic 58′); Besic, Medunjanin (Susic 64′); Pjanic, Misimovic, Hajrovic (Ibisevic 57′); Dzeko