22 June 2014

Nigeria: Coach Hails Nigeria's Fighting Spirit After World Cup Win

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 have put one foot in the second round of the World Cup following their 1-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday, and coach Stephen Keshi says he never felt a place in the knockout stages was in question.

The Super Eagles will qualify for the Last 16 even if they lose to Argentina, but would then require Iran not to get full points against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a result that would be surprising despite the fighting spirit the Middle East side showed on Saturday against the Argentines.

For Keshi to speak as if qualification is a done deal is dangerous, but he was perhaps caught up in the euphoria of the success over the Bosnians, achieved with a lone Peter Odemwingie goal just before the half-hour mark.

It was what the Nigerians deserved. They dominated much of the play and kept a clean sheet for the second game running, a fact that will be hugely pleasing for Keshi.

He hailed the win as helping to make a fine day for Africa, following Ghana's fighting point against giants Germany.

"Everybody is happy in west Africa. Ghana got their result and we won. It's good for the continent," Keshi told reporters. "The fighting spirit we showed was good. I never thought that we wouldn't make the Round of 16. I have the players.

"But look at Iran today, if it was not for Lionel Messi ... we need to work hard for the game against Argentina."

Odemwingie hailed the team spirit of the side and says it was a collective effort that saw them claim the win. He was pleased too with his goal.

"The goal means a lot to me, but the win was down to 90 minutes of concentration and effort from my teammates. The most important thing today was the character. We even enjoyed defending together."

Odemwingie returned to the side shortly before the World Cup after two years in the wilderness following a fallout with Keshi and says he is delighted to wear the green jersey again.

"I don't know anyone who doesn't love this country. Playing for my fatherland is an honour and a pleasure. What better way to come back than playing in a World Cup?

"Being back with my friends made me happy. I didn't expect to come back and score a winner in such an important game, but I'm very happy. But these were points the team earned. Right now I'm so high on our team's performance."

Bosnia-Herzegovina coach Safet Susic was left disappointed after he saw his side's chances of making the second round vanish with a second successive defeat.

"The match unfolded exactly the way I imagined. It was an open game, two teams wishing to win, lots of chances at either end," he said.

"We had a lot of chances and didn't convert any. They had one and scored that goal. I can only congratulate them. We knew they would be tough but they surprised us with their speed, their movement.

"They played attacking football, they really wanted to win. Now they are in second place in the group with great chances to progress."

Nigeria play their final pool game against Argentina on Wednesday.

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