By Augustine Akhilomen
The last time Nigeria had a decent run in a World Cup qualifiers was under the reign of Philippe Troussier enrout France 98′, where he guided the Super Eagles to top of the table against teams like Guinea, Kenya and Burkina Faso.
The French tactician who was unpopular amongst football lovers in Nigeria, was known as the ‘White Witch doctor’ for his overall successful legacy towards African football, something he exhibited with his no-nonsense style of football before he was sacked by the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA).
Eighteen years later and a new man is in the helm of affairs, with a low profile as a coach as far as African football is concern, he is gradually following in the path of Troussier, winning two of his matches convincingly for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Appointed by the Nigeria Football Federation in August to qualify the team for the biggest football showpiece in the world, Gernot Rohr seems to have completely won the hearts of Nigerians with his 100% winning record since taking over from former Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh. Beating Tanzania 1-0 in a dead-rubber 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, the team followed it up with a 2-1 win against Zambia in Ndola before thrashing Africa’s number one team, Algeria 3-1 in Uyo, to remain top of group B with six points. The victory against the Desert Foxes of Algeria simply shows his tactical know-how and discipline as a coach, without claiming all has been won and dusted.
“I am enthusiastic to get to work. This is a big challenge because Nigeria has big players everywhere and has the ability to do well internationally. I have a German heart – the heart of a winner.
“I have confidence that with the right atmosphere and the right support, the Super Eagles have the capacity not only to qualify for the World Cup, but get to the latter stages of the competition.” Rohr told the NFF website during his unveiling in Abuja.
During his appointment as the technical adviser of the team, there was lots of criticism from football experts, who thought the football house have taking a big gamble on the German tactician. Slight chance was given to him to make a difference in the team because of his poor background of African football, despite the fact that he has coached teams such as Tunisian club Etoile du Sahel and the national teams of Gabon and Niger.
Rohr took Gabon to the quarter-finals of the 2012 Nations Cup on home soil and also managed Niger at the 2013 edition but failed to get them out of the group stage. Before leaving Burkina Faso, he led the Stallions into the final round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
His Curriculum Vitae (CV) may not be too convincing for the Super Eagles job, knowing fully that Nigerians expects the best as far as getting the right results and playing ‘sexy football’ that would get everyone excited. Touted as an ‘old fashion’ coach, who doesn’t possess that tactical and technical abilities to revive the dying state of football in Nigeria, he however, has went ahead with his own business regardless of what people say about him.
Besides, former sole administrator of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amos Adamu on August 25, said that Rohr’s appointment would spell doom for Nigeria football.
“He does not have the pedigree, I don’t know him,” Adamu told Hot FM Abuja. “For now, we do not have a coach. He will just damage us and then he will leave.”
Nevertheless, in less than two months, the former Bordeaux manager has created an atmosphere of ‘self belief’ not only within the mindset of the players but also on the teeming Nigerians fans, which in a long time have lost identity of their darling Super Eagles.
Infusing the concept of youth and experience in the team, Rohr seems to have reignited the 1994 spirit that saw Nigeria qualify for the World Cup despite been pitched alongside teams such as Cote D’Ivoire and Algeria under former boss, Clemence Westerhof.
In addition, it’s rare for the Super Eagles to play to a particular pattern after the glorious days of 1994 Nations Cup and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games winning squad. In Rohr, the senior national team has suddenly found a new blueprint, in terms of pattern, playing 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 that keeps the flow of football going.
Surprisingly, he has never accorded praises to himself in the two matches he has won; instead, he lauded the players’ commitment, hunger and determination to make their nation proud.
“A positive attitude has helped us thus far, and I also want to commend the players for their discipline and dedication, and very good spirit in camp. They have been excellent.
“The mental strength is also there, because if you have to survive in such a difficult group, you need very good mental strength and focus. We have shown in the first two matches that we have the personnel and the good spirit to go all the way,” Rohr said.
Although it may be too early to blow his trumpet considering the fact that there are still many mountains to climb, however, Rohr’s current standing in the group for Russia tickets, puts him head and shoulder for what appears to be a fairy tale story.
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