Genk of Belgium forward Paul Onuachu stole the show with his substitute role for the Eagles in the two Africa Nations Cup qualifiers played in Benin and Lagos recently.
Here is a player who is the highest scorer in the Belgian league with 27 goals this term. He is the hottest Nigerian player abroad but Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, ignored him in his original list of 24 players.
It was a shock to many fans of the game that Onuachu was not listed. And when the first opportunity came to bring him from the standby list into the main list,
Rohr replaced injured Samuel Kalu with Henry Onyekuru and it was only when Moses Simon also pulled out that Rohr called up Onuachu apparently because of the huge public outcry. It was a surprise that Omuachu was among the first to report to camp and he worked so hard in training.
In the encounter against Benin, Onuachu scored the only goal to break the eightyear- old unbeaten record of the Squirrels. After the match, a defiant Rohr said Onuachu scored for himself and not for him.
We frown at such a response from the head coach who should be a father figure to all the players.
Against Lesotho in Lagos, we expected to see Onuachu play 90 minutes or at least have a starting role but he was on the bench again. When he was introduced in the second half, Onuachu again scored the country’s third goal in the 3-0 win.
Onuachu’s feat was a big statement and it also goes to show that Rohr despite posting results is deficient. We make bold to say that no good coach will ignore a player with 27 goals in a yetto- be-concluded season.
It is the job of the coach to know how well to deploy the player even if Victor Osimhen is his number one choice. We recall that Nigeria in the past played with Samson Siasia, Richard Owubokiri and Rasidi Yekini in the same match just as Daniel Amokachi, late Yekini and Siasia featured for Eagles many times.
Why is Rohr afraid to play two strikers? People will always argue that football is evolving but the name of the game remain goals and no one ignores a striker that gets goals.
We appreciate that there are options in the defense, midfield and attack. It was Joe Aribo that played in the middle against Squirrels in Porte Novo but Ogenekaro Etebo took charge against Lesotho in Lagos and did well. Alex Iwobi started in Lagos and was brilliant.
Even the goalkeeping department has competition with Maduka Okoye and Francis Uzohor. In the absence of Kenneth Omeruo, William Troost- Ekong and Leon Balogun did well but there is room for improvement.
We believe that against tougher oppositions, the performances of the team will depend largely on the tactics of the coach. In 55 games since 2016, Rohr has won 31, drawn 14 and lost 10. It is a bit above average record but this current team is bigger than Rohr.
The players are promising and definitely Rohr lacks what it takes to make them compete with the best teams at global stage.
For example, Manchester United coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjear, is second on the English Premier League (EPL) table but his deficiency has made the team to drop many points they should have won ordinarily.
When Chelsea changed from Frank Lampard to Thomas Tuchel, the records are there to show his brilliance. No doubt, the NFF made a huge mistake by giving Rohr a fresh contract and now he is too big to even to respect the Technical Director, Austin Eguavoen, or the technical department.
Onuachu’s feat in the two games is a big setback for Rohr who saw nothing good in the Gent forward. Nigeria is blessed with many talents in various parts of the country.
Many talents are in schools and at the grassroots and constantly, we preach for talents discovery programs. It is indeed sad that two age grade teams – the national U-17 team and the national U-20 team did not perform well as expected at the WAFU B African Championship.
The U-20 team under coach Ladan Bosso failed outright while Fatai Amao’s Eaglets luckily made it to the African Championship which was later cancelled.
Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, FIFA has cancelled the World Cups at U-17 and U-20 levels.
We expect the Nigeria Football Federation to set up transitional plans good enough to keep the age grade teams busy such that the players at this level will be exposed and prepared for the future challenges.
It must be acknowledged that winning a ticket before the last two games of the group phase is commendable but looking at the AFCON proper and the world Cup qualifiers, it is clear that there are many issues to be tackled by the NFF to make the Eagles stronger.
Merit should not be compromised by the technical crew in anyway and there must be a rethink about Rohr. If he is to stay he has to be subjected to further scrutiny. The era of business as usual should be over.