Stephen Keshi deserves credit

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The truth of the matter is that all pundits, bloggers and analysts of the beautiful game are just there to theorise and guess. The coaches and the players who do the job are the best placed to make comments, predictions and judgements.

Say what you like, Stephen Keshi knows his job. He has been very successful at his job as head coach of the Nigerian national team. He has the stats to back up his achievements thus far.

A solitary strike by Osaze Odemwigie, following some strong play down the right by the battering ram that is Emmanuel Emenike, was enough for Nigeria to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina. That win knocked out the European side from the group, gave Nigeria four points and broke Nigeria’s record of no World Cup win since France ’98.

A favourable line call had denied Bosnia’s Man City striker Edin Dzeko a clear goal but that was probably evened up when the same player clearly handled the ball as he controlled it and turned to take a shot in injury time. Keeper Vincent Enyeama somehow turned the shot onto his post and to safety.

This was the type of match that, had the Nigerian team taken more care in the last third, the score line would have been straightforward. Emenike had the Bosnia backline on tenterhooks all evening, while Ahmed Musa had them each time with his pace – he was once again atrocious with his final ball or his decision making.

Stephen Keshi deserves immense credit for the line-up he chose. Out went Ramon Azeez and Victor Moses from the starting 11, with the inclusion of Odemwigie and Michael Babatunde. Babatunde justified his inclusion with some brilliant touches and attempts on target.

His goal aside, Odemwigie played exceptionally well all match, covering his full-back whenever Nigeria was defending and being available in attack as the team broke forward. However, there were other notable contributors in the win. Emenike, as mentioned earlier, was powerful all night and had two efforts saved by the excellence of Asmir Begovic in goal for Bosnia.

At the heart of defence, Joseph Yobo organised and cajoled and headed almost everything tossed into the penalty area. Alongside him, Kenneth Omeruo continued to enhance his reputation. He did not put a foot wrong in his battle with Dzeko.

Nigerians over the years are used to the speed of play of the sides managed by Clemens Westerhof and Bonfere Jo and so expect the same from this current side. They need to understand that Keshi has built a team that is more considered in their play, relying more on solid defending than on pulverising the opposition with wave after wave of fast-flowing attacks.

After witnessing Argentina’s struggle and eventual rescue by Lionel Messi’s wonder strike in injury time, perhaps the knives were out too early for this team and their coach Stephen Keshi.

A point against Argentina in Porto Alegre and this team will have matched everything the famous 1994 side, that took five years to build, ever did.

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