By Segun Precious
I did not just wake up to insist on Gernot Rohr quitting his position as the head coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Having watched the German gaffer tinker the team since he was appointed in 2016, I believe that he cannot take the team to the rarefied height Dutchman Clemence Westerhoff took the team in his five-year sojourn from 1989 to 1994.
On two occasions, Rohr had the opportunity to write his name in gold with the team and he flunked them.
Number one: At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the last group match against Argentina, it was 1-1 close to the end of the match, that result could have seen Nigeria eliminate mighty Argentina, with Messi inclusive. But what happened? Marcos Rojo scored a last-minute winner for the South Americans to eliminate Nigeria. The coach ought to have effected changes before that backbreaking goal, seeing that the Nigerians players were tiring from the Argentine onslaught, with two substitutions still not made. Some fresh legs in the team to push back the opponents could have made a difference.
Number two: At the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, the semi-final clash was clearly dominated by Algeria. The same team Nigeria rode roughshod in both legs of the World Cup qualifiers but with a new manager. After an own goal by Troost Ekong, Nigeria labored and got a VAR- assisted equalizer in the second half. One expected Rohr to take advantage of the momentum of that goal to introduce fresh legs and push for a winner.
What did he do? Nothing. Hoping for extra time before Mahrez deservedly scored an added-time goal from a freekick. That goal ended Nigeria’s quest for a fourth AFCON title. Agreed that Nigeria did not have the best set of players for AFCON 2019, but they were an exciting prospect that a better coach would have moulded into a winning team. What Rohr kept saying was that it was a young team. Younger than the team that won the AFCON in 2013?
Not only that. Samuel Chukwueze, a natural left-footer was deployed to the right while Ahmed Musa, a natural right-footer was deployed to the left against Algeria. It was the same tactics used effectively against South Africa, but a forward-thinking coach should know that he would be found out soon. He deployed the same tactics against Algeria and could not change for 90 minutes! Against Guinea in the group stage, Nigeria had a whopping ten corner kicks and could connect only one that resulted in the goal. Their free kicks were terrible. A major technical concern over the years that the German also failed to tackle.
Super Eagles at AFCON 2019 were ponderous, awful, defensive and clumsy.
Gernot Rohr was able to qualify Nigeria for major tournaments before the last games, that will be the excuse of his backers but let’s look at why we did not qualify for AFCON in the past. In 2011, Samson Siasia took over the team after two matches were played. He did not lose any match in the qualifiers but a complicated CAF rule in the final match against Guinea confused the bench to the point of drawing a match that could have been won. Nigeria lost out in 2012.
In 2015, same issues came up that the late Stephen Keshi was sacked after beating Sudan in Abuja. He had lost the reverse fixture earlier. He was replaced by the late Shuaibu Amodu after news emerged that he (Keshi) had applied for the Ivorian job while still on a valid contract with the NFF. The instability in the NFF did not help matters as Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick were locked in supremacy battle. It was made worse when Solomon Dalung was made Sports Minister. Nigeria lost out once again.
In the 2017 AFCON qualifiers, Siasia was again called to rescue the team after four matches had been played under Sunday Oliseh and failed once again. Dumped out by Mohammed Salah’s inspired Egypt. He did not have the benefit of overseeing the team from the start of qualifiers.
As for Gernot Rohr, he had the support, the stability, and respect that eluded his predecessors to succeed. He did not achieve what other coaches have not achieved. His bronze medal at AFCON 2019 was what the likes of Christian Chukwu, the late Shuaibu Amodu, and others before him had achieved. Keshi in 2104 World Cup in Brazil took the team to the second round and fought France to a standstill until Ogenyi Onazi, who had a tournament of his life, was cynically scythed out of the match. So why pay much to a coach who is set in his ways and satisfied with little achievements? What exactly did Gernot Rohr achieve with other African countries he had been?
Do we rely on Gernot Rohr to perform creditably in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? My response will be that you’ll only be expecting him to punch above his weight. I don’t hate Rohr, I only insist that he cannot give what he doesn’t have.
My solution: Get Samson Siasia to take over the team now! And to be assisted by Emmanuel Amunike and Finidi George. The duo of Siasia and Amunike have proven themselves with the brand of football suitable for the Super Eagles while Finidi is a UEFA licensed Grade A coach.
Siasia had led Olympic teams twice in 2008 where they got to the final and 2016 where they won bronze despite poor treatment meted to them by the sports authority. On both occasions, the teams played exhilarating football. While Amunike led Tanzania to a first AFCON in 39 years though he had a forgettable experience and was kicked out by an ungrateful country. Finidi coaches Mallorca under 23 in Spain. The trio, if given all necessary backing will get the super Eagles to the world summit like in happened in 1994.
Segun is a Lagos based Sports Journalist