Super Eagles Manager Gernot Rohr will look forward to keeping the new record of qualifying the country for a major tournament with a game to spare when his wards face Benin Republic in an African Cup of Nations qualifying match in Porto Novo on Saturday (today).
The Super Eagles usually leave it late to qualify for major tournaments in the past with the team subjecting Nigerians to permutation and calculations during qualifying series for either the World Cup or AFCON. However, it is instructive to note that as much as he hasn’t been able to really convinced many Nigerians on his capability with unimpressive showing at major tournaments, Rohr has made qualifying for those competitions an easy job. Football was at the lowest ebb when he took over in 2017; the Eagles had failed to qualify for both the 2015 and 2017 AFCON despite being the winners of the 2013 edition of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Rohr guided the side to 2019 edition of the tournament which was held in Egypt. He did that in style, having won the ticket with a game to spare. He built on that success for the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia when he steered the team to qualification before the completion of the qualifying series.
He is on the march again; his team need just a draw in their faceoff with the Squirrels of Benin Republic today to book their place in the 2022 AFCON. They could have set a new high if they had beaten Sierra Leone at home and pick a draw away in Freetown during their last double-header but the Eagles chose to surrender a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 in Benin City, Edo State, before playing a goalless draw in the reverse fixture. It was a setback that almost cost Rohr his job but the German now has the opportunity to correct the mistakes with at least a draw in Porto Novo landing them in Cameroon today.
“We will not underrate this team, our tradition is to be qualified with games to spare, we want to continue in this tradition,” Rohr said. “We desire to win our games and since the beginning, we were in this direction, we are sometimes lucky to win our first games but I think the determination of the staff, of the team, is giving us this opportunity to be ready.
“We are keen to restore a winning mentality to the group ahead of very crucial matches that we have ahead. It is important that we earn victories in the upcoming matches so that we get into our paces for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. There will be tough games to come and we need to be rearing to go.” Under him, Nigeria has won 29 matches, drew 14 and lost 10.