There were two upsets today in Group F of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, both of which can be traced to controversial refereeing and game-changing officiating. Bosnia and Herzegovina was stripped of a goal early on in the match against Nigeria. The Bosnian’s are undoubtedly feeling the same sting that Iran experienced earlier in the day when they were denied a penalty kick in the box against Argentina. Had the Bosnian squad gotten their way with the officiating, they would have come out the 1-0 victors in the match against Nigeria.
All in all, the game saw the two teams flourish stylistically. Bosnia continued perform well in the midfield, with all eyes on playmaker Miralem Pjanić and striker Edin Džeko. The World Cup newcomers have earned a well-deserved respect on the pitch, however football is a sport that does not always reward a good performance. That reality in particular can be encapsulated by the officiating of the Bosnia-Nigeria match.
The first blunder happened in the 21st minute when Pjanić’s beautiful through ball to Džeko was called offsides, robbing Bosnia of a 1-0 lead over Nigeria. Upon review of the play, it was immediately deemed evident by commentators and fans alike that Džeko was onsides and that the assistant referee had made a wrong call.
The 29th minute saw a controversial call, this time by omission. Nigeria’s Emmanuel Emenike gave a cross into the box that Peter Odemwingie was able to finish nicely, but not before Emenike took down Bosnian defender Emir Spahić. Odemwingie’s goal effectively put Nigeria in the lead 1-0, which they were able to maintain until the final whistle blew.
Not every referee would have called the foul, especially since Emenike had control of the ball and was visibly trying to get around, not go through, the defender. However, in light of the physicality of Emenike’s drive and the incredible stakes of the game, the referee’s decision not to blow his whistle will go down as one of the many controversial calls the 2014 World Cup has seen this year in Brazil.
Nigeria came into their own against Bosnia, and performed much better as a cohesive unit than they did against Iran in their opening match of Group F. Emenike was extremely dangerous for the Bosnian defenders, and his strength on the ball made it almost impossible to shut the player down in the offensive third.
Nigerians will be celebrating goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama’s performance against the Bosnian offense. In a game where the percentage of ball possession was nearly equal for both teams, Enyeama made 13 critical saves for his squad. However, praise for Enyeama’s performance would not be possible if it were not for the brilliant effort of Bosnia’s Džeko, who remained unrelenting throughout the game.
The status of Group F in the World Cup has some unknowns. Argentina will advance to play the 2nd place team from Group E, however Iran and Nigeria have a tough road ahead of them. On Wednesday, Nigeria will face the likes of Argentina while the Iranians will take on Bosnia. The nightmare of controversial officiating will no doubt be in the back of the players’ minds as each team looks forward to Wednesday.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering World Cup Group F
Observation by author
Guardian Liberty Voice