Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi hopes the momentum from Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina will set his side on a similar path to that they followed in winning the last African Nations Cup.
“Victories affect people in different ways so we are looking up now and if we get into the second round anything can happen,” he said after Peter Odemwingie’s first-half goal lifted Nigeria to four points after two games in group F.
“Maybe we will be inspired as we were in the last African Nations Cup.
“We needed the win. They have some fantastic players so we are happy to bounce back after what our people thought was a poor performance in the first game.”
Nigeria were held to a goalless draw by Iran in a disappointing start that mirrored the slow start for the Super Eagles 18 months ago when they went on to win the African title.
“I think the character of the boys showed. The fighting spirit of the team. And it was better weather today, although the temperature was very, very high. It was tough. But I liked what I saw.
“There was never a time I thought we would never make it. As long as the players are willing to play, I know what we have.”
The win also marked a first World Cup finals triumph for Nigeria since 1998. They failed to win in 2002 and 2010, which added to Keshi’s delight.
“It’s been 16 years and no wins for our country so we are very excited.”
Odemwingie, who has had his fair share of run-ins with Keshi, said the team had been painfully aware of the hiatus between wins.
“We were aware of the 16 year gap with no win for the country,” said the 32-year-old, who was born in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan where his father played football.
“This is very exciting for us and very important too as the fans were disappointed by our previous performance.
“This victory can have a huge impact on us as it brings confidence with it and if we get to the last 16 who knows what can happen, maybe a repeat of what happened in last year’s Africa Cup of Nations where we got better and better.”
WATCH: Peter Odemwingie's goal
Bosnia went out of their first World Cup with a sense of injustice over a disallowed goal and regrets that they had not performed as well as they can on soccer’s biggest stage.
“They are all depressed, disappointed, silent,” coach Safet Susic said of his players. Bosnia cannot now progress after losing 2-1 to Argentina in their first game.
A tight match hinged on two controversial calls in the first half from the officials, led by New Zealand referee Peter O’Leary
Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside and Bosnia also felt that their captain Emir Spahic was fouled in the build-up to Odemwingie’s winning goal.
“Had they allowed the [Dzeko] goal, this would probably have changed the match,” said Susic.
“I was told in the dressing room that Dzeko was well onside. As far as the reported foul on Spahic, if the referee didn’t whistle there was no foul.”
Susic said that his own team ultimately had to take responsibility for being outfought by Nigeria and profligate in front of goal.
“It seems they wanted it a bit more,” he said. “You see what kind of chances we wasted, like the one in stoppage time,” he added referring to a scuffed shot from Dzeko which Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama deflected on to a post and away to safety.
Susic indicated he felt a Bosnian team featuring players of the quality of Manchester City’s Dzeko and AS Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic could have produced more.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse