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Soccer-Odemwingie told to seize his second chance

Reuters

By Alan Baldwin

CURITIBA, Brazil, June 15 (Reuters) - Peter Odemwingie deserved a second chance to play for Nigeria at the World Cup and now he needs to make the most of it, coach Stephen Keshi said on Sunday.

"He's been doing well at his club, at Stoke City, and I think he should be given another chance to play for his country," he told reporters before Nigeria's opening group F game on Monday against Iran.

"He was dying to play for Nigeria. He's somebody I've liked as a football player and when we spoke he had desire to play again and do something for his country.

"So he's got an opportunity and I hope that he's going to use it well."

Relations between the two have not always been so cordial, with 32-year-old Odemwingie falling out with Keshi in 2012 and being left out of last year's African Nations Cup, which Nigeria went on to win.

"Coach Keshi took over and in the first game I was subbed quite early, which I've never been used to because I always played 90 minutes, both for club and national team," he told the Guardian newspaper last month.

"It could be that I misjudged the situation," added the player, who was in Nigeria's 2008 Olympic team and 2010 World Cup squad.

"I'm humble enough to admit that, because when the same things happen to other players, then clearly it's not personal to you. So for me it was then a case of coming to him and saying: 'Let's hug it out and move on.'"

With the help of the team psychologist, who also spoke to the coach on his behalf, the door was reopened and his return to the fold in May was greeted as the 'return of the prodigal son' by one Nigerian television station.

Uzbekistan-born, of a Russian mother and Nigerian father, Odemwingie may resist the prodigal status but he is certainly well-travelled in life and football after stints in Russia, Belgium and France before the Premier League.

He signed for Stoke from Cardiff City, now relegated, last January after 17 league and cup appearances following a move from West Bromwich Albion in September 2013.

The striker, once a fan favourite at West Brom, fell out with that club and their fans after a failed bid to join Queens Park Rangers during the January 2013 transfer window. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nigel Hunt)

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