The World Cup has come and gone, from Nigeria’s perspective. Expectedly, there should be a post mortem on Nigeria’s performance.
Could Eagles have done better? Were there things that could have been done differently? Were there players who didn’t live up to expectations? Were there some who didn’t deserve to be in Russia? How well did the technical crew deploy the personnel within their disposal? How well did they handle exigent situations?
Questions begging for answers. Since Nigeria lost 1-2 to Argentina, the pertinent question has been; should Gernot Rohr stay on as Super Eagles technical adviser or should he go?
As has become customary, the clamour for him to leave has intensified. There has been a tradition of easing out every coach that took Eagles to the World Cup. Somehow, they just had to leave after the World Cup. From Clemence Westerhof to Bora Milutinovic, Adegboye Onigbinde and Lars Lagerback, all had to leave after being in charge at the World Cup. Only Stephen Keshi managed to hang on, despite the calls for his sack after Brazil 2014, thanks to his contacts in the Presidency.
It is our belief that Rohr should remain in charge of the national team. Considering where we were coming from having failed to qualify for back-to-back AFCONs, he did so well to steer the team to World Cup qualification with a game to spare. Not many Nigerians would have given the team a chance after being grouped alongside, Cameroon and Algeria. But Rohr’s boys did it in grand style.
It must be noted that the same players that his predecessors failed to deploy effectively to get AFCON tickets were the ones he used to get the World Cup ticket. The difference was that under him, more occasions than not, players got invitations on merit.
But the World Cup ticket was about the farthest he could take the team at the moment. The fact is that the players were not ripe enough to make a huge impact at the World Cup. Demanding a World Cup second round ticket from a group where they were the least ranked team was asking too much of them. This is a very young team, an evolving one and the inexperience was always going to prove costly at the World Cup.
On the flow of the games, particularly the decisive one against Argentina, the team could have secured a second round ticket but failure to put the Argentines to the sword when their backs were on the wall buttressed the team’s inexperience.
The need to boost the team’s experience quotient ahead of the next World Cup lends further credence to Rohr’s relevance in the team going forward. The word ‘rebuilding’ has become a recurring decimal with the national team. This is the only national team that rebuilds even at the World Cup. For the next World Cup, we need to have a ‘built’ team and not one being rebuilt.
We should build on the gains of this World Cup and see whether it can yield an AFCON success next year. This team has Rohr’s touch and he is in a better stead to mould this young team into a world beater. He for instance, should be in a better position to nurture goalkeeper Francis Uzoho to stardom because he found the rookie worthy of number one spot at the World Cup against the odds.
If we want to make a headway, Rohr should be allowed to continue from where he stopped. Another coach comes with his new ways and we start rebuilding all over again.
There were question marks on some of his technical calls at the World Cup. But juxtaposed with the gains of having him in charge in the longer term, the latter is much preferable. A change in guard puts AFCON qualification in jeopardy. Failure to qualify for a third consecutive AFCON is unimaginable.
For those lampooning his technical input at the World Cup, it should also be noted that if he didn’t wield his magic wand, there wouldn’t have even been a World Cup appearance talk more assessing him and his boys. Qualifying for the World Cup the way he did was far beyond expectations.
Though we believe he should have done some things differently at the World Cup, he has NSG’s nod to continue and right those wrongs.