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It’s my turn to shine at the World Cup, Odemwingie

Nigeria striker Peter Osaze Odemwingie has told the BBC he will look to the great Super Eagles performances in the World Cups of the 1990s as he prepares to make his own debut in the tournament.

•Odemwingie in action for father land

Odemwingie, who has scored nine goals in 47 games for Nigeria, will be making his World Cup bow six years after first being called up for the national team.

And he said he was inspired by Nigeria’s famous displays at USA ’94 – where they reached the last 16 – and France ’98.
“I remember each and every one of their goals – of Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Amunike, Daniel Amokachi, Samson Siasia, Finidi George – I remember all their goals, and the dramatic game against Italy, that we lost 2-1 after leading,” he told BBC World Service.

“I remember France ’98, with the super goal from Sunday Oliseh from almost 40 metres. Great memories, of course, of the Nigerian team performing in the World Cup.

“Now it’s my time to do something for my country and to be remembered as someone who did something great in the World Cup.”

Odemwingie, who was born in Uzbekistan when it was part of the Soviet Union, had the option to play for Russia – but instead chose to play for the country of his father, and was first picked for the Super Eagles in 2004.

However, they unexpectedly failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup after only finishing level on points with Angola – who went to Germany by virtue of having a superior record in matches between the two teams.

South Africa 2010, therefore, represents the 28-year-old Lokomotiv Moscow player’s first chance to shine at this level, despite having secured nearly 50 caps.

He admitted, however, that he would still have to fight to ensure he starts the first Group B match, against Argentina on 12 June – before further games against South Korea and Greece.

“For the last few years, I’ve been one of the key players in the team – but that doesn’t mean that the new coach [Lars Lagerback] doesn’t have his own views,” he said.

“You still have to fight for the shirt, even though it’s not like five or six years ago when I was new in the national team – when I wasn’t confident of being in the 18 or 23 player list for the game.

“Now I am confident that I have proven myself for Nigeria, that I am going to be there. I am looking forward to being in good health, and relate well with the new coach.”

Odemwingie also said he gets “very emotional” after the final of each tournament, when he sees the winning captain hoisting the famous gold trophy.

“I feel the happiness they have, because it’s like a dream come true for everyone,” he said.
“As good as your team is, as big as you are as a star, you still don’t know if you’re going to win it, and if you’re going to hold that cup in your hands. So when I see a big player raising that cup with so much joy, I feel it’s very encouraging – that nothing is impossible.”

Known for his pace, Odemwingie shot to prominence when he scored two goals at the San Siro while playing for Lille against AC Milan in the Champions League.

By the time of the 2010 African Nations Cup, he was captain of the national team, where they got to the semi-finals.
Odemwingie also spoke of his “pride” that Africa was finally hosting a World Cup tournament – and added he felt it would definitely give Nigeria an advantage.
“Africa is Africa – it’s like a happy continent; it’s a colourful continent.

“We will feel more at home, because we will feel the atmosphere still; you know that you are in Africa. At the same time, we will have lots of supporters.

“You have a lot of Nigerians living there, you have those who will travel. I will have my own support – my parents and my sister; her husband; the kids – some friends from Nigeria and some friends from Europe.

“When I look at them sitting there, I will feel like I am not alone. We will have a lot of support, more than in any other country – 20-30,000 Nigerians will travel, and you have 10,000 living in South Africa – so every game will have the feeling of playing a home qualification game.”

And he added he had no doubts that South Africa would put on a good show.
“Last year’s Confederation Cup showed a little bit that it is going to be a good tournament,” Odemwingie explained.

“And that is not even all about it. It is going to be better than that. It’s the proof that Africa has developed – it’s a continent that is running a little bit behind Europe and America, for instance, but this is the proof that it is not stagnant; that things are happening there.

“People have visions, have plans… that’s why they can invite people – the whole world – to come and see how far they have gone in developing their country; they can invite people for such a big tournament.

“It’s a message to the world that we’re here. We’re not on top, but we’re heading there. I think it’s the first shout-out of Africa that we’re coming.”


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