2014 World Cup Group F

Odemwingie’s goal holds up as Nigeria eliminates Bosnia and Herzegovina

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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.

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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

At halftime: Odemwingie goal, officials’ decisions loom large for Nigeria against Bosnia-Herzegovina — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: A half hour of Bosnian control breaks Nigeria’s way when Peter Odemwingie’s set up for a 29th minute opener. With a goal of their own having been controversially waved off earlier, the Bosnian bench is left appealing for the same outcome. When the near-side official’s flag stays down despite contact in the buildup, the favorites are left with a 1-0 deficit at halftime.

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Goals:

29′ – Bosnia tries to convince the assistant, but Odemwingie’s goal will stand. After getting his feet tied up with Emmanuel Emenike, Bosnian captain Emir Saphic is left on the ground as the Nigerian attacker moves toward goal. Drilling a pass to the edge of the six-yard box, Emenike sets up Odemwingie for an easy finish, giving the Super Eagles their first goal of the tournament.

 

Other key moments:

21′ – Finally taking advantage of their possession, Bosnia score the first goal of the match. Unfortunately, it won’t count. After a flick from Miralem Pjanic allowed Zvejzdan Misimovic to play Edin Dzeko through, the assistant referee’s flag goes up, though replays showed the Bosnian attacker was onsite. Three minutes later, Dzeko has another try, but Vincent Enyeama keeps Nigeria even.

Lineups:

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Yobo, Omeruo; Mikel, Onazi; Musa, Odemwingie, Babatunde; Enemike

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Begovic; Mujdza, Blcakcic, Spahic, Sunjic; Medunjanin, Besic; , Misimovic, Pjanic Hajrovic; Dezko

Key Players:

  • Miralem Pjanic, Bosnia and Herzegovina – The Roma midfielder has had room to create in front of the Nigerian defense but has yet to craft a goal. Given how many times he’s played teammates through (as well as his part in the team’s waved off goal), it’s only a matter of time. John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi need to keep better tabs on Bosnia’s best player.
  • Emmanuel Emineke, Nigeria – Bosnia’s controlling possession, but thanks to Emenike (as well as Odemwingie and Ahmed Musa), the Nigerians have been just as dangerous. Per Opta, Emineke has already created three chances for his teammates – only one less than Pjanic.

Question for the second half:

  • Can Bosnia’s defense take care of the ball – Emineke has been good, but the defense has made it easy. Four giveaways deep in their own end have made Bosnia their own worst enemy. Well, other than …
  • Have the officials decided this match? – It’s not the worst officiating we’ve seen in this tournament, but based on replays, the score should probably be reversed. Can Bosnia persevere, or will we be left to discuss the controversy instead of the result?

Game on: Lineups and talking points as Nigeria takes on Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Nigeria comes into today’s Group F match one point ahead of Bosnia and Heregovina, but the Super Eagles are in a worse situation than their cellar-dwelling foes. Coming off a 0-0 draw with Iran, Stephen Keshi’s team wasted its best chance to claim points at this World Cup. While that doesn’t preclude them from pulling an upset going forward, it does means their patch to the knockout round runs uphill.

For Bosnia and Herzegovina, the points column may read “0”, but their plans are still in tact. After a loss against Argentina to open their tournament, the World Cup debutants have their two easiest games in front of them. Win them both, and Safet Sušić’s team makes the final 16.

Here are the teams for today’s 3:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff in Cuiabá.

[ MORE Group F: Nigeria gets nothing from Iran | Bosnia comes up short against Argentina]
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Starting lineups

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Yobo, Omeruo; Mikel, Onazi; Musa, Odemwingie, Babatunde; Enemike

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Begovic; Mujdza, Blcakcic, Spahic, Sunjic; Pjanic, Besic; Medunjanin, Misimovic, Lulic; Dezko

Talking points

1. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, it starts now –  Sušić wouldn’t have come to Brazil without a plan to get out of Group F without points against Argentina. In that sense, the real challenge for Bosnia starts now. After a close game playing as decided underdogs, they’ll play their next 180 minutes as favorites. If they can avoid playing down to their competition, Bosnia and Herzegovina can earn themselves a fourth game. That journey starts now.

2. Different game for the Super Eagles – In their opener against Iran, Nigeria was allowed to control possession. Although they never broke through, the Super Eagles’ defense were given most of the day off. Against Bosnia, however, Nigeria could end up on the wrong end of the possession battle, forcing them to play an entirely different game. Given how game one ended, that may not be a bad thing.

Expectation: There’s always a lot of love for African teams, particularly from a generation of fans who saw Cameroon exit in the quarterfinals of Italy 1990. As a result, some hold out hopes that Nigeria can get past a Bosnia side with almost no World Cup experience. More broadly, however, the Bosnians are expected to get through.

One blogger’s prediction: Bosnia breaks through in the first, adds insurance in the second, and ties a bow on it late. 3-0 to the favorites.

At halftime: Chances scarce as Iran, Nigeria reach intermission scoreless — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: One-way traffic saw Nigeria shake off the sluggish form of their final warmup match to control play against Asia’s surprise qualifiers. With only one good, early chance, however, the Super Eagles didn’t give Carlos Queiroz’s man any reason to change-up. At halftime, the teams are still level, even if the Iranians have scarcely seen the ball.

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Goals: Yeah, right.

Other key moments:

9′ – Controlling play from the opening kickoff, the Nigerians looked good for a quick opener in the thanks to Emmanuel Emenike. Going wide into the left in Iran’s penalty area, the Super Eagles’ number nine stretched his opponents’ defense before firing a ball just above the six-yard box. Ahmed Musa, coming in from the right, couldn’t get there in time to beat Alireza Haghighi, with the followup from Ogenyi Onazi pulled wide of the left post.

34′ – Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama gets awoken from his slumber with the best chance of the match, a header from Reza Ghoochanneijhad that almost converted Iran’s first corner. Hit to the near post, the restart saw the Charlton striker redirect his shot down toward the middle of goal. Unfortunately, the ball was also pushed straight at Enyeama, whose right hand kept two zeros on the scoreboard.

LINEUPS:

Iran: Haghighi, Heydari, Haji Safi, Hosseini, Sadeghi, Nekounam, Timotian, Montazeri, Ghoochannejad, Dejagah, Pooladi

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Omeruo, Oboabona (Yobo 29′), Oshaniwa; Onazi, Mikel; Musa, Azeez, Moses; Emenike

Numbers to know:

69% – Nigeria’s possession over the first 45 minutes.
6 – Number of Iran fouls. Nigeria had seven. Though they’ve dominated the ball, the Super Eagles have been unable to inspire any urgency from their opponents.
19 – The number of passes Iranian defender Andranik Teymourian made in the first half, leading his team. Six Nigerians bested that mark.
0 – Accurate crosses Nigeria completed before halftime.

Questions for the second half:

  • Will Iran find their moment? Except for a nervous moment in the ninth minute, the match has gone as Iran may have imagined. They don’t have the ball, and Nigeria’s been able to generate more shots, but Iran’s been relatively comfortable while waiting for their moment. The question is whether that moment will come.
  • Is one enough (for either team)? With Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina ahead for each team, this is Iran and Nigeria’s easiest game of the tournament, making it difficult to reconcile a draw with hopes of advancing past the group stage. Will either of these teams press for full points, knowing this is their best chance to claim them? Or will they be conservative and hope fortune favors them when they’re asked to be braver?

 

World Cup injury list grows as Nigeria’s Echiejile ruled out

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Nigeria have confirmed that defender Elderson Echiejile will miss the World Cup. The 26-year-old picked up an injury in Nigeria’s goalless draw with Greece on Tuesday, and was forced off before the interval.

Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi said: “Doctors have said Echiejile will need up to three weeks to recover from the muscle tear but we don’t have that type of time to play with so we’ve taken the decision to replace him.”

Elderson will be replaced by winger Ejike Uzoenyi, who plays for domestic side Enugu Rangers. Uzoenyi was on Keshi’s preliminary roster, but cut from the 23-man squad.

Nigeria did receive some good news, however. Kenneth Omeruo, who picked up an ankle injury in a collision with a teammate at a training session last week, sat out the 2-1 loss to the United States on Saturday. However, he will be fit for the first match of the group stages.

The Super Eagles face Iran in Curitiba on Monday, June 16. Their other opponents in Group F are Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina – not an easy group to emerge from, and one Nigeria certainly would’ve liked to be at optimal health for.