Although expectations were tempered due to poor results in the last two World Cup tournaments they qualified for, The Super Eagles of Nigeria came into this year’s World Cup full of confidence. They won the African Cup of Nations last year with a unified team that had fewer off field problems than previous Nigerian squads. However, aside from having a goal disallowed in the first 20 minutes, they failed to impress in their opening game against a determined Iranian side who were widely considered underdogs.
Their midfield was particularly unimpressive. Even though they had most of the possession, they rarely did anything useful with it. Peter Odemwingie will need to start instead of the hapless Ramon Azeez who woefully misplaced almost every pass he attempted. Lazio’s Ogenyi Onazi was also spuriously energetic, constantly passing the ball to the opposition and spurning what was arguably the best chance of the game. He will need to be much better, and so will John Obi Mikel. The Chelsea midfielder will need to be involved further forward, as he was ineffective in the Pirlo-like quarterback role he played against Iran. Usually a midfield stopper for Chelsea, he looks to dictate the tempo for his countrymen and is much better at shorter passes – a skill the Nigerians will need to exploit if they are to have any chance of defeating Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Nigeria like to play a fluid 4-3-3 counter attacking style. They should be allowed to do this more against the Bosnians than they were against the Iranians, who if they could, would’ve parked the plane they came to Brazil on in front of the goal. In order to do that they will need get the ball to their three forward players Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike and Ahmed Musa quicker and with better accuracy if they are to stand any chance at all.
Bosnia & Herzegovina on the other hand are a technically sound team, with AS Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanić as their chief instigator. They have already proven they can beat strong African opposition, defeating Ivory Coast 2-1 in a friendly last month. In Manchester City’s Edin Džeko they have a proven goalscorer for a Premier League winning side and will look to him for inspiration. The battle between him and Vincent Enyeama will be really fun to watch. Nigeria’s goalkeeper and Vice Captain is a player of real quality. He repelled Lionel Messi in the 2010 world cup and will look to do the same to Edin Džeko in this one. The Nigerian defence do not provide him with much cover but even on his own Enyeama will be a formidable opponent for Džeko and his teammates.