20 June 2014

Nigeria: Super Eagles Have Everything to Play for

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Nigeria's Ahmed Musa provided striker Emmanuel Emenike with a low ball to score, but the goal was disallowed after an offside call which gave the Super Eagles cause to feel aggrieved.

Nigeria can put memories of their disappointing 0-0 draw with Iran behind them if they get a victory against a very useful Bosnia-Herzegovina side in Cuiabá on Saturday.

OVERVIEW

Both teams were disappointed with their opening matches at the World Cup, Nigeria in being held by group minnows Iran, and Bosnia-Herzegovina because they lost to Argentina in a game during which they more than matched their illustrious opponents at times.

Saturday's encounter has been billed as pivotal. With Argentina expected to coast through and Iran unlikely to contest for the top two places, Nigeria and the European side will likely be fighting for the last qualification spot.

Whoever wins on Saturday, although not quite through to the next stage, will take a giant step towards the second round.

If Nigeria can win then they will be heavy favourites, even with a game against Argentina to come.

That would eliminate the Bosnians and leave Iran needing to defeat the European side in their final match to take second spot. A draw or a defeat and it will be "advantage Bosnia-Herzegovina" with their final game against Iran to come.

The Super Eagles will be without injured defender Godfrey Oboabona, though they have a ready-made replacement in veteran Joseph Yobo, who is set to win his 99th cap.

The pre-match talk has been whether winger Peter Odemwingie will be elevated to a starting berth, despite coming in for criticism from coach Stephen Keshi in the wake of the Iran draw.

Keshi felt Odemwingie had not played to his instructions and left his side vulnerable, but there is no doubt that the experienced midfielder brings an x-factor that was missing for large parts of the Iran game.

Bosnia captain Emir Spahic is doubtful with a knee injury, while midfielder Sejad Salihovic is struggling to shake off a long-term problem, though he is expected to be fit.

KEY PLAYERS

Emmanuel Emenike (Nigeria) - Nigeria created chances against Iran but failed to find the back of the net, their attack looking blunt. They must grab whatever opportunities come their way against Bosnia-Herzegovina and leading forward Emenike will be key. He is probably the best finisher in the team - not that he showed it against Iran.

Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina) - Bosnia-Herzegovina have a number of players with good European experience, but forward Dzeko is coming off an excellent campaign with English champions Manchester City and is in the form of his life. Tall and rangy, he might not have great pace but he is a clever striker who takes up excellent positions in the box.

WHAT THEY SAY

Stephen Keshi (Nigeria coach) - "I'm not God, I'm just a coach and I will do what I have to do and that's it. Even the best coaches in the world cannot tell you they will win before the game. We will try to prepare ourselves, we will work together and see what happens. We saw Costa Rica, we saw Holland and Spain. With football you never can tell, whatever comes my way, I will take it."

Safet Sušić (Bosnia-Herzegovina coach) - "We haven't shown everything we are capable of yet. I hope that Argentina will win their other two games, because if they do then the second spot will be between Iran, Nigeria and Bosnia. I am convinced that we still have everything to play for."

MATCH FACTS

Date: Saturday, June 21

Kick-off: 22h00 (GMT)

Venue: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá

Referee: Peter O'Leary (New Zealand)

NIGERIA HEAD-TO-HEAD VS BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

This will be a first ever meeting between the two countries.

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