By Tony Nezianya
CUIBA – Nigeria’s Peter Osaze Odemwingie, 32, who made a strong return to the Super Eagles after being left out for nearly a year over frosty relations with Coach Stephen Keshi, became the `messiah’ of sorts.
Odemwingie, who plays as a striker for Premier League club Stoke City, secured a 29th minute 1-0 victory that brightened Nigeria’s chances of making into the next stage of the competition.
He had missed out on the Nations Cup, tournament where Nigeria was crowned the African champions on account of altercation with the coach.
His twitting after matches in previous matches were not well-received by the coach and indeed, the Nigeria Football Association, further compounding the problems of the player.
For want of quality players to be added to strengthen the World Cup squad, many Nigerians, including Coach Austin Eguavoen, himself a former Eagles handler, compelled Odemwingie to apologise to Keshi, which he did.
He, then, pledged loyalty to the coach and country, promising to be a good boy once more.
It was evident that the player had turned a new leaf as he raised his game in the two consecutive appearances in the Eagles.
“He deserved the honour,’’ Coach Samson Siasia, a former head coach of the Eagles said, in reaction to the Eagles’ impressive outing in Cuiaba in the ongoing World Cup.
“Osaze is a good player any day. On a good day, he can change a game. He deserved the award as the man of the match.
“He was everywhere, played on the right side and created a lot of chances,’’ Siasia said.
The player, who grew up in Russia and Nigeria, began his career with Bendel Insurance FC of Benin.
Odemwingie, who was clearly the Budweiser Man of the Match, said the goal meant a lot to him.
“The win was down to 90 minutes of concentration and effort from my team-mates.
“The most important thing was the character. We even enjoyed defending together. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love this country.
“Playing for my fatherland is an honour and a pleasure. What better way to come back than playing in a World Cup.
“Being back with my fiends made me happy. I didn’t expect to come back and score a winner in such an important game, but I’m very happy.
“But this was a point the team earned. Right now I’m so high at our team’s performance and chances of progressing to the next level.
“I didn’t expect to score a winner in such an important game, I’m very happy. But this was a point the team earned. Right now I’m so high on our team’s performance.’’
Keshi, who had accused the player of failing to play to instructions in the clash against Iran, promptly denied this, saying he never had a quarrel with the player. (NAN)