By Ben Efe
Peter Osaze Odemwingie is the last Eagle standing in a team full of World Cup â€˜wannabesâ€™. Players who want to shine like World Cup stars, but lack the commitment to drive their ambition to the limit.
But Osaze, as he is fondly called by admirers, is not like that. He dreams about playing in the World Cup and goes all out with fire burning in his bones to seek victory. If only a tree can make a forest, then the national team would have been resting by now with the World Cup ticket in the bag. However, as it is, Osaze is only a reminder of how committed the national team players use to be. He is a consolation to millions of heartbroken fans who have to wait till nightfall of November 14 to know if their country will be represented at South Africa 2010.
Nigerian fans showed their displeasure by staying away from the Eaglesâ€™ hair rising game against Mozambique.Â The few fans who braved it to the National Stadium Abuja booed as the national anthem was being rendered. This only hurt Osaze who had come as usual to play his heart out.
â€œIt was very painful. I didnâ€™t expect that, itâ€™s sad because I think true football fans are always with the team even if things are rough,â€ said the half Nigerian, half Uzbekistan player who cut his football teeth playing for Insurance of Benin.
Osaze who was rightly honored by African Independent Television (AIT) as the Nigerian Footballer of the year last weekend has always been the fans favourite because of his never-say-die attitude on the pitch.
Since making his debut for Nigeria at the 2004 Nations Cup with twoÂ spectacular goals against South Africa, Osaze has featured regularly for the Eagles with 34 caps and seven goals to his credit. He was part of the Eagles team to the 2006 and 2008 Nations Cup in Egypt and Ghana respectively, but there is not a title to show for all his efforts.
Osaze was close to achieving that with the Olympic Eagles at the Beijing 2008 Games, unfortunately, the team was denied the gold by Argentina. Osaze, the only over-aged player who responded to the national call, was all the same outstanding.
Understandably, this is why the 17 million euro rated Osaze is desirous of winning a title at least to his name and most importantly make his first appearance at the World Cup in order to exhibit his skills, which has seen tremendous improvement of late.
Despite the uncertainly that shrouds Nigeriaâ€™s appearances at the World Cup 2010 Osaze is still hopeful the Eagles will qualify, so that he can have his chance to play at the highest level of world soccer, most especially when scouts of top European clubs are on his tail with a view of signing him.
â€œ Nigerians must have to be optimistic we still have a chance to make South Africa 2010. If we start looking for problems, we are just going to spoil what we have done so far,â€ sighed the all action striker.
La Louviere, Belgium was Osazeâ€™s first port of call in his seven years of sojourn in European football. He moved to Lille in 2005 and was a major factor in their Champions League campaign. He scored nine goals in 44 appearances for the French Club, and in 2007, cash strapped Lille, sold Osaze to Lokomotiv Moscow. HeÂ has constantly featured in Lokomotivâ€™s local and European campaigns. Osaze is a cult hero in Moscow, but he has his eyes for a move to the big leagues.
There are no serious interests yet from England, Spain, Italy and Germany. As it seems, Osaze still lacks that extra bite that will make European top guns scramble for his services. He has good technique and blistering pace, but sometimes his finishing lets him down. The big clubs are more interested in players with clinically finish. Osaze showed a glimpse of this in the game against Tunisia in Abuja. When he was connected with a through pass from John Obi Mikel, he raced toward the goal, turned his marker and slotted home with ease.
For now Osaze, who is Godâ€™s gift to Nigeria football, is looking ahead the game against Kenya and at the same time hoping that Tunisia will slip in Maputo.
â€œWe have hopes that we can still qualify for the World Cup. Tunisia wasnâ€™t convincing over Kenya.Â What Mozambique did in Abuja also gives us hope that they can give a good fight against Tunisia in Maputo.â€ Osaze concluded.