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Africa Cup of Nations: Gernot Rohr’s Questionable Beginning!

By Patrick Albert

Nigerians, especially football lovers, are certainly in pensive mood. The outcome of Nigeria’s Super Eagles qualifying Africa Cup of Nations match with Leone Stars of Sierra Leone, is without doubt a questionable beginning. It is a woeful weekend gift from Coach Gernot Rohr to soccer loving Nigerians.

It is disgusting that the first leg match played at the new Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, Edo State on Friday, November 13, 2020 could end up with Nigeria and visiting Sierra Leone sharing four goals apiece (4:4). Haba Gernot Rohr! Why should Nigeria be on the lead with four goals almost to the end of first half only to crumble so easily to Sierra Leone? No matter the argument to the contrary, the buck stops at the table of Coach Rohr.

At a time we are still struggling to shrug off the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, #EndSARS brouhaha and the sudden unreasonable increase  of fuel pump price by the Federal Government; such woeful outcome by Super Eagles surely increases our pains.

READ ALSO: EndSARS Protest: The Uprising Of Nigeria’s Heroines

Since the German gaffer took charge of the Super Eagles as head Coach, he has often left us gasping for breath during most matches. His methods vis-à-vis technical approach is oblique. He prefers to tinker with the team’s composition, preferring to always shop for new players. For how long shall this experimental approach of Gernot Rohr be? Evidently, the outcome of our match with Sierra Leone in Benin, Edo State, has certainly put us under pressure. The visitor is on advantage when we go for a return leg. Starting the qualifications on that note is very sad.

Some sports analysts are still doubtful if Gernot Rohr can take the Super Eagles to the height Dutchman, Clemence Westerhof, took the team to, in his five-year sojourn with Nigeria from 1989 to 1994. Also is the record set by Bonfrère Jo, who led Nigeria to win the 1996 Olympics Gold medal in Atlanta, Georgia. Bonfrère had also led Super Eagles to the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000, co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana. He led the Nigerian team to the finals, where we lost to Cameroon by penalties.

Gernot Rohr had had the opportunity to make history at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, during the last group match between Nigeria versus Argentina, he could not employ his technical know-how to sustain the 1-1 apiece scores to the end of the match, which could have seen us eliminate the Argentines. And that lack of prompt reorganization of our team, when Argentina did theirs, cost Nigeria’s ultimate advancement. The South American team went on to score a last minute goal to stop us.

Even at the last 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, it was obvious that the semi-final clash was dominated by Algeria, a team we had earlier dominated during both legs of the World Cup qualifiers before the African derby. What was the difference? Algeria had secured a new manager and that changed their story. We saw technical superiority and got consumed. That Algeria’s momentous 2:1 defeat ended our craving for a fourth AFCON title.

It is expected that after four years with Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr should by now have developed a dependable team, capable of rising to the occasion. This expectation is still far to be met. With our poor outing with Sierra Leone at the commencement of Africa Cup of Nations, what then can we say? Are things likely going to change positively?

More worrisome is the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar. How will we fare? Our football authorities have to allay our fears. Gernot Rohr is an employee, who must be subject to the scrutiny of his employers, in this case the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

 The soccer house cannot look the other way when there are ominous signs that all is not well in the darling team. The renewal of the contract with the Franco-German tactician earlier this year came after much foot-dragging by NFF. Many soccer pundits had even called for non-renewal of his stay with Super Eagles. But that was done. The new deal puts him as Super Eagles coach for a two-and-half-year contract extension. The 66-year-old must be told in no unmistakable manner that we need more from him. He should perform or risk his job. We have enough talented footballers all over the world to amass, build into a formidable team and leave this ‘trial and error’ stage.



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