Peter the Great plots Belgian attack
© Foto-net

Seeing him wearing the green of Nigeria, with his dreadlocked hair and confident style on the pitch, it's difficult to believe that Peter Odemwingie is probably the most famous player in world football that was born in Uzbekistan.

The story goes that Odemwingie's father, a medical doctor from Nigeria, travelled to Europe for study. It was there where he met a Russian colleague, they fell in love and the rest is history. On 15 July 1981, a child was born which they named Peter Osaze Odemwingie. The Russian influence for ‘Peter' was obvious, but his middle name ‘Osaze' means ‘God chooses.'

It was Samson Siasia that chose the 27-year-old striker, now plying his trade with Lokomotiv Moscow, to join Nigeria's Olympic squad as one of their over-age players.

Taking the lead
"I am finding that I'm taking more responsibility," he told in the team hotel in Shanghai. "The coach called me up to help the team. I feel a bit of pressure because the expectations are higher of me than they are of the younger boys, but I am doing my best. However, I believe that if you work hard, you won't have a bad day and the results will come."

Following the 2-0 over Cote d'Ivoire, Siasia praised his players for sticking to their gameplan, something which he felt was lacking in the group games against Netherlands, Japan and USA. Odemwingie feels that the criticism from the coach was justified, but points to the fact that there is evidence that his team-mates are losing their naivety.

"We've improved a lot, which you can tell by looking at our results," he continued. "We didn't score in the first game, in the second and third games we won 2-1 and in the quarter-final we still scored two, but kept a clean sheet. I was pleased that we did that, because it showed that we were strong and organised and that we'd taken a step forward from the USA and Japan matches.

We know we have to work defensively, but it is in our instinct to go forward and look to score.
Peter Odemwingie on striking the balance.

"We're still looking for our game. Peter Odemwingie on striking the balance.">We know we have to work defensively, but it is in our instinct to go forward and look to score. That's why in the past we've left gaps at the back, which the coach hasn't been pleased about. However, the fact has been stressed to us, we have to be organised and play as a team if we are going to be successful."

Off the mark
Admitting that he was relieved to score against the Ivorians and get off the mark at this Men's Olympic Football Tournament, the former Lille striker is hoping to add to his tally against Belgium on Tuesday.

However, he knows that that will be easier said than done, given the Diables Rouges route to the semi-finals, culminating in them sending highly-fancied Italy home with a 3-2 win in the quarter-finals.

"I've been impressed by the Belgians," he said. "They have a real quality and the result against Italy speaks for itself. They've done better than people in their own country expected them to do, but we're concentrating on playing on our own game to reach the final - and not worry about them too much.

"We need to play our own brand of football, attack them, take the game to them, but also stay compact and be organised - not get carried away as we did for the last 15-20 minutes against USA, because Belgium could exploit that."