Bosnia-Herzegovina were knocked out of the FIFA World Cup on Saturday evening, slipping to a 1-0 defeat to Nigeria in Cuiaba.
Peter Odemwingie broke the deadlock in the first half after great work from Emmanuel Emenike, while Edin Dzeko hit the post in the final minute of stoppage time to seal Bosnia-Herzegovina's fate.
Formations and XIs
Nigeria switched from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1, playing Odemwingie, Michael Babatunde and Ahmed Musa in a rotating advanced midfield three. Emenike continued up front.
Bosnia-Herzegovina played a 4-2-3-1 too, with Miralem Pjanic in the No. 10 position, Haris Medunjanin joining Muhamed Besic in midfield and Senad Lulic at left-back. Zvjezdan Misimovic played on the left wing.
Bosnia-Herzegovina began the match on the front foot, dipped out for an alarming 10-minute spell and then came back firing toward the end of the half.
All of their attacking verve was based on the interchanging of players, with the Dragons targeting Nigeria's stand-in left-back Juwon Oshaniwa and working the channel inside him.
Are Bosnia targeting Juwon? Focusing a lot down the left-back, finding some joy. Omeruo/Enyeama keeping things together at the moment. CC— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) June 21, 2014
Pjanic, Medunjanin and Izet Hajrovic ran rings around the Super Eagles in the final third but failed to fire the killer ball through the gaps in the first half. Misimovic played Dzeko in for a goal that was wrongly called offside, but apart from that they promised much and delivered little.
Misimovic's actual role was a confusing one, too. The 32-year-old is a classic No. 10 with enganche-esque talent, yet he was shoved out on the left where he had limited influence on the fixture.
There's a chance the plan, on paper, was for Misimovic to tuck inside and let makeshift left-back Lulic—usually a winger—to bomb past him and hold the width on his own.
With Medunjanin and Besic patrolling in front of the defence, it's a workable system, but Lulic barely made it forward in the first half.
Why? Partly because of BIH's obscenely high defensive line that was getting tortured by Nigeria and partly because Emir Spahic (LCB) chose to have one of the worst games of his career.
Emenike ran the channels superbly, as always, and frequently got between Spahic and Lulic to run in behind. His searing pace meant he was able to get the better of any defender one vs. one, and he tore through on goal and laid it on a plate for Odemwingie's opener.
He continued to torment and only Toni Sunjic, the right-sided centre-back, came out of the game with any credit.
In the second half, Bosnia-Herzegovina manager Safet Susic started making substitutions, with Vedad Ibisevic the first off the bench. Sejad Salihovic followed and Tino Susic after that, changing the Dragons' formation to a 4-3-1-2.
It's the way BIH always go when accommodating two strikers, but with Lulic and Hajrovic coming off, they had no natural wingers on the pitch who were able to cross into Dzeko and Ibisevic.
In fact, with Emenike keeping the full-backs honest due to his incredible pace and power, the Dragons forfeited any semblance of consistent width and really struggled to stretch the pitch out properly.
In that flurry of changes, they bottle-necked themselves.
It's tough to take for Bosnia-Herzegovina fans, but their first World Cup experience is all but over after two matches.
Nigeria move on to four points and are yet to concede a goal, with a marked improvement coming in the second game, thanks to Emenike, Mikel, Onazi and the brilliant Kenneth Omeruo.
Susic substituted himself into a hole his side couldn't climb out of; a valiant debut effort but not enough.