There was fear of the unknown when Gernot Rohr took over as head coach of the Super Eagles, replacing Sunday Oliseh last August, but a six-game unbeaten run, which included wins away at Zambia and at home to Algeria in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, had seen a renewed belief in the national team.
However, last month’s 2-0 home loss to South Africa in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers was a reality check for the German tactician.
Rohr has come under heavy criticism for his team selection in Uyo, and with the Nigeria Football Federation technical committee set to come in between the former Burkina Faso gaffer’s squad selection criteria, reports are circulating that he is ready to quit just before the Super Eagles tackle reigning African champions Cameroon in a crunch double-header next month.
It’s a match that could determine whether the West African giants will make it to Russia in good time or not, but again, the fixture is in danger of being overshadowed by uncertainty at the Glass House.
Rohr has denied those resignation reports but such shouldn’t be surfacing at a time like this.
The defeat to Bafana Bafana might have been an eyesore, particularly because it was Bafana Bafana’s first competitive victory over Nigeria, but we need to be reminded that Rohr didn’t have his strongest squad available.
There might have been suggestions on whom he should have started instead of the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Ogenyi Onazi, Elderson Echiejile, Chidozie Awaziem and Daniel Akpeyi, who were all below par that evening, but only the coach knows his best selection.
Chris Green’s NFF technical committee, football enthusiasts and other stakeholders must ensure they don’t meddle in Rohr’s affairs, especially not at such a critical time. His immediate plan is to get the Super Eagles to the World Cup next year and that’s on the horizon as they top Group B of the qualifiers and lead Cameroon by four points.
Nigerian coaches have always had a history of their operations been interfered with the NFF and this has led to them not staying too long on the job but this shouldn’t be the same for Rohr. He might have a short-term objective but what he has laid down shows he’s building something for the future.
The German has gone for youth and blended them in with some experienced hands, and it’s an approach that could yield results if given time and space.
Pressure had been put on Rohr to include some players from the Nigeria Professional Football League in the Super Eagles squad. He has done that but the truth is NPFL players are not yet ready to be blooded in these high-intensity qualifiers. The African Nations Championship is where that can be achieved.
Rohr already faces a selection dilemma with the Super Eagles, particularly with number one Carl Ikeme diagnosed with acute leukaemia and Captain Mikel John Obi still trying to get back to full fitness after many months on the sidelines.
What he certainly doesn’t need is outside influence from within the NFF technical committee or anywhere else. If the overall objective of making it to the World Cup isn’t reached, the Franco-German knows he has failed and his time is up.