CUIABA, Brazil – Nigeria eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina from World Cup contention with a 1-0 win over the tournament newcomers on Saturday, with Peter Odemwingie’s first-half goal getting the African champions closer to the knockout stage.
Odemwingie sealed Nigeria’s first victory at a World Cup since 1998 – spanning 10 matches – by finishing from close range in the 29th minute after one of a string of powerful runs by fellow striker Emmanuel Emenike.
Bosnia faded after a bright start, during which star striker Edin Dzeko had a goal contentiously disallowed for offside, and is still without a point in Group F following a 2-1 defeat to Argentina in its opener.
A draw would have given the Bosnians something to play for in its last group match, against Iran, but Dzeko had a shot tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama in the final few seconds, ending their hopes.
Nigeria needs a point against Argentina on Wednesday to be guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16 – and a surprise win would secure top spot in the group.
With Africa’s five teams starting the World Cup with just one win from their first eight matches, the continent was able to enjoy a rare success in Brazil.
There had also been added motivation for Stephen Keshi’s team, which was seeking to boost the spirits of Nigerians back home in the wake of a suicide bombing attack at a World Cup viewing site in the northeast of their country. At least 14 people died in the blast.
Nigeria was too strong and experienced for the Bosnians, whose soft centre in defence failed to deal with the power of Emenike in energy-sapping conditions in the western Brazilian city of Cuiaba.
And the recall of Odemwingie, who was impressive as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with Iran, gave Nigeria an extra goal threat – demonstrated by his calm finish.
Emenike powered past the tame challenge of Bosnia defender Emir Spahic and charged down the right flank before crossing for Odemwingie, who shot first-time through the legs of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic – his teammate at English club Stoke.
By that stage, Bosnia-Herzegovina should have been ahead, with Dzeko finding the net in the 21st only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. Replays appeared to show Dzeko was level with the last defender.
Otherwise, Dzeko’s finishing was off-key and with their star striker struggling, the Bosnians looked disheartened in the early stages of the second half.
Begovic kept his team in the game with saves from Michael Babatunde and Emenike before Bosnia-Herzegovina’s late rally created a good chance, Dzeko turning his marker in a crowded penalty area and side-footing a shot that was kept out by Enyeama.
© The Associated Press, 2014