The three-time African champions have been placed in an easy-looking Group C for the 2022 World Cup Qualifying series alongside Cape Verde, Liberia and Central African Republic, but the German tactician is aware of the challenges ahead.
Gernot Rohr expressed cautious optimism after seeing his side pitted against less-fancied foes in the race to be at Qatar 2022. Only five countries will represent Africa at the FIFA-organized global event.
None of the Blue Sharks, the Wild Beasts, or the Lone Stars has ever been to the FIFA World Cup, but Nigeria have participated at the Mundial six times, making her debut 26 years ago at the USA ’94. Only the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon (7 times) have represented the continent more.
Cape Verde, Liberia and Central African Republic currently stand between Nigeria and a spot in the knockout round. With the Super Eagles avoiding traditional big sides like Ivory Coast, South Africa and Guinea, many would have been pleased with Nigeria’s draw.
However, Rohr is fully aware – with full respect to Cape Verde – that there are no longer minnows in African football.
“I saw the groups,” Rohr told ESPN. “There are some very tough groups when I see Cameroon and Ivory Coast together.
“Our group is also a tough group because Cape Verde is a very good team. They have very good players playing in Portugal, some of them in France. So it will not be easy to beat this good team of Cape Verde.”
Rohr and his men know the Liberians a bit having claimed a 2-1 win in a 2018 friendly match arranged to retire the Lone Star’s number 14 jersey made famous by George Weah.
“It was not easy against Liberia when we went there for the last match of the president. We won it, but it was not easy.”
Nigeria have never met the Central African Republic (CAR) before and it is the unpredictability of the 109th-ranked Wild Beasts that worries Rohr.
“They (CAR) don’t have anything to lose so that can make them play without fear and be very dangerous,” Rohr added.
Nevertheless, Rohr insists he’s confident the team will scale through despite the unpredictability of the other teams in the group.
“I am very confident but very careful at the same time,” the coach said. “I am confident because our team is on the right way and they will progress.
“We have to work very hard, prepare well like we did the last edition. It is very important to start well. When you win the first game, it is very good. But I am confident because our team is young and has some players already with World Cup experience.”