Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina: 6 Things We Learned
Peter Odemwingie's goal was enough for Nigeria to defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina in World Cup Group F and send the Dragons home.
Bosnia seemed to struggle with the disappointment of seeing Edin Dzeko's goal harshly ruled offside on Saturday night, and the Super Eagles moved to the verge of qualification for the knockout stages.
Nigeria exploited the flaws Bosnia-Herzegovina showed against Argentina and repeated in this match, but they did not have enough of a killer instinct to finish off their opponent.
Consequently, Dzeko almost equalised in injury-time, but his effort hit the woodwork, with the aid of a deflection from Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Nigeria will now face Argentina in their final match, and they will also hope Bosnia can defeat Iran to secure a place in the last 16 for the Super Eagles.
Here are six things we learned from the match.
Bosnia Were Running on Empty by the End
Safet Susic packed his midfield with creative players, hoping that Zvjezdan Misimovic and Miralem Pjanic could create a partnership that should supply Dzeko with chances, but his plan failed.
One thing Bosnia-Herzegovina lacked in the match was pace—they had more possession, covered more distance and had more passes but most of their plays were slow and inefficient.
Even though they have a tall striker in the box, Bosnia again failed to challenge their opponents with crosses. Dzeko was cut off and had to run to the middle of the pitch to take the ball.
On the other hand, the Super Eagles were more decisive and aggressive with the ball. Their fast counter-attacks brought a confusion to the Bosnia defence.
Odemwingie's goal was the result of the Bosnian defence looking too slow to react properly.
As the time passed, the Dragons just did not have enough energy for the final run.
Referee Plays Significant Role in Sending Bosnia Home
Saturday's match was always likely to be decided by the first goal. The opener can break one side psychologically and it seems that was what happened in this match.
However, this time it was a disallowed goal which ended up helping Nigeria.
Edin Dzeko escaped his markers and fired home what appeared to be the first goal of the game, but New Zealand referee Peter O'Leary and his assistant adjudged the Manchester City man to be offside.
Dzeko was clearly onside in television replays, but that did not help. After scoring an own goal in the first minutes of the first match against Argentina, Bosnia were again hit with an unexpected blow and did not hold out psychologically.
The goal could have been a historic one for Bosnia, but it turned out to be the beginning of the end for their World Cup hopes.
Bosnia Head Coach Safet Susic Showed Inexperience and Naivety
Head coach Safet Susic stubbornly refused to budge from his 4-4-2 system throughout the World Cup qualifiers.
It was a move that paid off attacking-wise, making Bosnia-Herzegovina one of the most efficient nations in the campaign. But the formation exposed them at the back, often causing a lot of troubles and conceding even to smaller nations such as Leichtenstein.
A lack of reaction from the bench also did not help Bosnia, with Susic making changes in the closing 20 minutes which served only to slow Bosnia down and make Nigeria's job easier.
Return of Peter Odemwingie Was Best Possible Move for Nigeria
After ending his feud with Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi over his exclusion from the African Cup of Nations squad in 2013, as BBC Sport reported, Peter Odemwingie made the difference on Saturday.
The Stoke City forward had not played for the Super Eagles for two years, but his return in Brazil has proved to be decisive.
Odemwingie was named man of the match, and he was the man who exploited the gap on the left side of Bosnia defence to create a lot of problems for Senad Lulic and Emir Spahic.
He proved that he deserved to be part of this team, and he established himself as a hero for the nation's football fans.
Bosnia Are Not Making the Most of Miralem Pjanic
Miralem Pjanic is one of the finest midfielders in European football.
A typical exponent of the Balkan football school, the Roma star has vision, creativity, brilliant technique and a hunger for the ball.
But Susic does not appear to be using him effectively, as the game against Argentina showed.
Against Nigeria, Susic moved Pjanic to a classic No. 10, but he paired him on the left with Zvjezdan Misimovic, a player of similar characteristics, but slower and older. His overlaps with Pjanic—in a way—neutralised Pjanic.
Miralem Pjanic should be the key player of this Bosnia team but isn't, which is the biggest mistake Susic has made at the World Cup.
Never Experiment at the World Cup Finals
Bosnia-Herzegovina played 42 matches under Safet Susic, but Saturday night's starting XI were playing together for the first time.
What's more, the Bosnia head coach decided to drop the only proper left-back he has, Sead Kolasinac, and replace him with winger Senad Lulic.
Also, for the first time in his reign, Zvjezdan Misimovic was on the left side of the midfield, creating a huge imbalance in the team.
Odemwingie's goal arrived from the left side, where 80 percent of Nigeria's attacks happened.
The Bosnia midfield looked disconnected, with huge gaps between their lines, and it was obvious that this experiment failed.
It is puzzling why Susic tried such new things in the most important match in the history of Bosnian football and his own coaching career.