When Gernot Rohr’s contract was renewed for another two years, the decision received mixed reactions with some questioning what the German has done to deserve a renewal.
However, a lot of fans supported the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) decision to renew the 67-year-old’s contract, praising him for the team’s improvement since he arrived in 2016.
In fairness, Rohr deservedly earned his renewal as a result of the work he has done. The former Bordeaux has brought stability while the team’s performances have also improved.
However, just five months after renewing his contract, the German tactician is already under pressure. Nigeria played for the first time in almost a year when they took on Algeria and Tunisia in two international friendlies this month.
It was also the team’s first game since Rohr signed his new deal. However, the performance from the two games was an eyesore, which is down to some of Rohr’s decision.
The German invited 25 players originally, but Kevin Akpoguma joined the squad after he received his clearance from FIFA. Also, Austria based goalkeeper, Tobias Lawal was part of the squad.
In total, 27 players were in the Austria camp. Although the number gave Rohr the opportunity to try out new players and tactics, the former Burkina Faso manager stuck mostly with his old guard.
In the first clash against Algeria, only Frank Onyeka and Zaidu Sanusi were handed a start with the former lasting just for 45 minutes.
Rohr’s tactics were also called into questioning. Paul Onuachu, who was a replacement for Victor Osimhen, led the line for the Super Eagles, while Samuel Chukwueze and Samuel Kalu occupied the attacking flanks.
Onuachu stands at 2.1m tall, but the team never used it to their advantage. Instead, the Genk forward had to drop deep to receive balls.
Both Chukwueze and Kalu failed to deliver crosses into the box for the 25-year-old. Zaidu Sanusi, who made his debut at left-back got into promising positions, but he never made any delivery for Onuachu.
Before the game, Rohr had urged Onuachu to adapt to the team’s style, which raises the question on if the German is trying to sabotage the player.
The Super Eagles had a lot of possession against the current African champions, but nothing came out of it with only a speculative shot from Alex Iwobi the closest the team got to scoring.
It was also surprising that of the new players invited for the game, only Onyeka started, while Akpoguma and Samson Tijani came on as substitutes.
Cyriel Dessers, Chidera Ejuke, and Mathew Yakubu were not even introduced at all, and that was a baffling decision from Rohr.
It was not a surprise to see the Super Eagles lose the game by a lone goal as the Algerians were clearly more organised than Rohr’s team.
The second game was against Tunisia, and it provided Nigeria with the chance to respond. Rohr has always played the 4-3-3 formation in most of the games, but he deployed the 4-3-2-1 in the clash against the Carthage Eagles with Kelechi Iheanacho playing behind Ahmed Musa.
The tweak in tactics initially worked as there was more urgency in Nigeria’s game. Iheanacho put the three-time African Champions ahead with a brilliant finish from inside the box.
He had the chance to extend the lead from the penalty spot, but his poor kick was saved by the Tunisian goalkeeper. He would rue the miss as Tunisia equalised through Mohamed Drager just a minute before half-time.
Despite the disappointment of conceding late in the first half, it was an improved performance from dreadful display against Algeria.
It was expected the team would build on that following the restart, but that was not the case as the team’s level dropped.
The second half mirrored the performance against Algeria. The Super Eagles were not adventurous in their approach and preferred to play it safe.
Maintaining stability is what has always worked for Rohr, but the purpose of the two friendly games is for him to try out new styles. The Super Eagles struggled for creativity in the middle of the park- although they missed the services of Joe Aribo.
However, the search for creativity in the team has been an issue for the team, and it was laid bare once again in the two games.
It was also a strange decision that both Cyriel Dessers and Chidera Ejuke, who could have helped Nigeria’s attack, were afforded less than 20 minutes in the two games.
The performances from these two games have put the pressure on Rohr ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sierra Leone.
Anything other than a convincing win in the doubleheader clash will see critics come for him again, even Rohr’s staunchest supporters won’t be able to defend him.
It was good to see Nigeria in action again, but Rohr and his wards cannot afford a repeat of the same performance when they take on Sierra Leone next month.