After World Cup setback, Rohr sets sight on success in Cameroon
Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr has put the exertions and controversies that trailed Nigeria’s elimination in the first round of the Russia 2018 World Cup behind him and is now focused on excelling at the Cameroon 2019 African Nations Cup.
The coach, who came under scrutiny following Nigeria’s failure in Russia, told journalists at a breakfast meeting in Lagos yesterday that his team is 70 per cent ready to challenge the best of African football next year. He added that the remaining months before the championship in Cameroon would afford him the opportunity to fine-tune his squad before the continental fiesta.
Rohr, who described Nigeria as the toughest national team job he has handled, said, although his team is still young, it has matured enough for the challenges ahead.
“When you have a young team you can be assured that it can improve. Our mission is to win and with the experience the players got from the World Cup I am sure they will not make the type of mistakes they did in Russia.
“In Russia, we could not manage the few minutes remaining for us to move to the next round in the game against Argentina and we paid dearly for it. I saw a bit of that against South Africa in the last game, but we have time now to correct such lapses.
“If we prepare very well and avoid injuries, I think we can be among the last four teams in Cameroon.”
Rohr disclosed he would continue to look for players to improve his squad, adding, “We are open to more players that can help us fortify the team. There are so many players from Nigeria scattered across the world and the good ones will always get the opportunity to show what they can do for us.”
On the two goals disallowed by the match referee in the last qualifier against South Africa, Rohr said he did not actually see what happened, adding, however, that the referee may have misjudged the situation because of Ahmed Musa’s speed.
“We see the draw as victory because despite the disallowed goals, we still qualified for the African Nations Cup. We are not stopping there. We want to win the group hence we will take the game against Seychelles seriously.”
Rohr revealed that he played Samuel Kalu as a wingback because the Bordeaux striker has shown that he is not lacking in defensive qualities.
The former Bordeaux manager added: “I know Kalu very well because before Bordeaux bought him from Leganes, they scouted him and found out that he can play many roles in a team. He can run forward and can also defend on the right side. He can even tackle perfectly and his commitment is superb.”
On Mikel Obi’s continued absence from his team, Rohr explained that new boy, Samuel Chukwueze was not brought in to replace his captain, saying the fact the former Chelsea midfielder has not played for Nigeria since the World Cup does not mean he is no longer part of the team.
He added: “That Chukwueze wore the number 10 jersey against Uganda doesn’t translate to being a replacement for Mikel. It is just a jersey number he used.
“Mikel remains in our plans and we all know why he has been out of the team. After the FIFA World Cup in Russia, Mikel wanted to take a break. He told me he needed rest and motivation. When he is ready, he will be back. Mikel is a fantastic captain.”
The parley held at the HS Media Studios in Lagos was sponsored by Peak, which is one of the national team sponsors.