The sterling point on Gernot Rohr’s CV, especially since he started managing the Nigeria national senior football team-the Super Eagles in 2015 was the easy passage to either the World Cup or the Nations Cup.
His teams have been boring but effective in getting their qualification tickets.
I will not canvass for anyone to be relieved of their positions or places added to the fact that Rohr’s employer, the Nigeria Football Federation [NFF] seem happy with their employee, even though I do not agree with his continued stay as Eagles manager.
To the 1-0 loss on Thursday at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, I will say it is not a one-off but a culmination of performances over the last 18 months. The emotion that should encapsulate the loss should be shock, and not surprise-for the normal and unemotional viewer. For the dyed-in-the-wool patriot, who has on rose-tinted lenses, the result was a blip.
My consternation stems from how much must have been spent to bring in 23 overseas-based players-at least N20 million spent on business flight tickets.
The sundry additions like hotel and lodging, meals and internal mobility will add to the final bill and the question to ask is if it could have been any worse if half of the team on Thursday was culled from players playing in the Nigeria Professional Football League? It is a matter for conjecture and objectivity.
Under Amaju Pinnick, the NFF have always avoided answering the hard questions. They have told us so many times that Rohr is the best available manager for the Eagles and the German is fulfilling their desires even though the assessment of their employee has never been made public.
In preparing the Super Eagles to face the Wild Beasts of the Central African Republic for the first of their double-header duels on Thursday, Rohr must have known the CAR would play with a low defensive block because of the respect for their Nigerian opponents and the gap in pedigree.
Thus, he cannot say he was surprised the CAR defended with at least eight players every time the Eagles progressed the ball into the final third and sought to use long balls over the defence to create chances.
They got their goal through that avenue while the CAR goalkeeper, Junior Ngali was not forced into any meaningful save for all of the 96 minutes.
The first half saw the Eagles produce zero shots for the CAR goalkeeper to save. Basically, the Eagles were impotent for 90 minutes of the 180 minutes they will duel with their opponents over 72 hours.
On the sideline, Rohr’s gesticulations and hand pointing did not have the desired effect as the Eagles laboured to create any meaningful goal scoring opportunity throughout the encounter.
Victor Osimhen had to drop deep to get on the ball and link play as the duo of Frank Onyeka and Joe Aribo were largely ineffectual. Onyeka, who started in place of the injured Wilfred Ndidi preferred to play safe passes instead of attempting to break through the line with runs or triangle passes.
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The goal conceded was a calamity because the Eagles had enough cover with Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong but somehow Karl Maxence Namnganda got the ball and had the easy job of slotting past Francis Uzoho, who had largely been inactive.
But do not let us get encumbered by this loss. Against Cape Verde in the Eagles’ last match before Thursday, the 2-1 win was etched on a bizarre own goal and a goalkeeping mistake. The Eagles had more ball possession, just like they had against the C.A.R as the 13 corner kicks suggest.
Though all is not lost as the Eagles have a chance for quick redemption on Sunday when they play the return leg against the Wild Beasts at the Stade de la Réunification in Douala, Cameroon.
The Eagles still lead Group C with six points as the Cape Verde, Liberia, and the C.A.R continue to take points off themselves. If the coaching crew and the players come together, the Eagles should still make it out of the group but on the evidence of Thursday’s showing; the March 2022 final qualifiers may become a road too far.
The NFF have reassigned success as qualification for tournaments which Rohr has achieved with relative ease. They could still get away with this calamity but if real progress is the desire and mission then an urgent rethinking of the composition of the Super Eagles- from coaching to personnel, is needed.
We have laid back and enjoyed Rohr’s safety net for so long we have forgotten what ambition is-what the class of 1994 achieved; what the 1996 Olympic team created. The Super Eagles cannot get their supporters off their seat nor can they excite. We have come to accept huffing, puffing, and going nowhere fast.
Like I said in the beginning, I was not surprised by the loss; but what will the NFF do about it!