Stingy defense plus favorable officiating usually adds up to victory. Nigeria needed both to upend Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1-0, which erased the losing team from World Cup contention and snapped an extended dry spell for the winner.
Nigeria, which began the tournament with a tie after going winless at its two previous World Cups, surfaced into second place in Group F behind Argentina, its upcoming opponent.
In a game whose high-octane pace belied the score, Bosnia's starters and reserves were enraged that what would have amounted to an offensive foul was not called before the game's sole goal.
Emmanuel Emenike threw out his arm, impeding a defender, as he fought to retain ball possession before feeding a pass to Peter Odemwingie. Referee Peter O'Leary put the whistle to his lips but, having seen contact both ways and noticing no flag raised by his sideline assistant, chose not to call a penalty on either player.
The Bosnians quibbled less with an earlier egregious miscall, though perhaps because it transpired a greater distance from their bench.
Edin Dzeko tracked down a through ball and drilled it home, only to see the other assistant referee lift his flag to signal offside. Replays indicated the flag should have stayed holstered. Bosnia was robbed of a beautiful score, which begs this question: Is it too much to ask of the linesmen, who make but a few calls per match, to judge offside properly?
Dzeko, a midfielder turned striker, never left up, nearly scoring twice on sharply struck shots in stoppage minutes. His header went straight to goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama for the save. His kick, which came after controlling a pass with his chest and pivoting, was deflected aside and off the left post by Enyeama.
Soon after, there was celebrating for Nigeria and postgame scrutiny for the referee crew.
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