The fixtures were strange but the back-to-back friendly games between Nigeria and Cameroon came up in Vienna, Austria on June 4 and 8. We believe the performances of Eagles stars in the just concluded season gave many Nigerians hope that Cameroon would not be a problem. We recall that Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze and Joe Aribo were top on the list of players who pulled out of the friendly for various reasons.
But there were enough ‘materials’ for the coach to get good results in the two games. The Eagles lost the June 4 encounter 1-0 and the second ended 0-0. Paul Onuachu, Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Moses Simon, Terreh Murphy, Wilfred Ndidi, Ogbenekaro Etebo and William Troost- Ekong were on parade but Rohr did not steer the ship well enough. Iwobi was played out of position. When the Eagles were trailing in the first match, one expected him to have brought in another striker to boost the attack but rather, he removed Onuachu and so he killed the game. His substitutions have always been suspect.
It was a surprise that keeper Maduka Okoye was unable to save the only shot that came his way while the Lions keeper denied the Eagles on about four or five occasions. In the second match, it was expected Rohr would start Francis Uzoho but the coach did not. How he arrived at Okoye as number one after the return of Uzoho from injury is still a mystery. We make bold to say Rohr is technically deficient and it was evident in the two games. Even when Cameroon made 10 changes for the second friendly, Rohr fielded a strong squad and was still unable to create a winning formula for the Eagles. Truth be told, the current players in Eagles are very talented but Rohr has not shown that he has the ability to bring out the best in these players.
He invited players for friendly games and still refused to give some of them playing time while his substitutions were always very late. No doubt, Ndidi was a standout player in the two friendlies and if Rohr has vision, he should give the Leicester midfielder the captain’s band since Musa is on his way out of the team. The newlook Eagles should be built around the consistent Leicester player.
It must be stressed that the absence of some players was not enough for Nigeria to have failed to score in two games and so it is a reality check for the team preparing for the World Cup qualifiers later in the year. The free hand Rohr is enjoying should be reviewed by the federation. A player, Valentine Ozonwarfor, who featured for his Turkish team, Galatasaray FC, for only eight minutes all through the season made the cut for the last match.
This is absurd. Rohr should be answerable to the technical committee of the NFF and the technical department and after drawing up his list there should be a press conference where he should be made to defend his list. To entrust the future and development of the country’s football to the German-born manager is a big mistake, if a stern action cannot be taken now, then, he must be made to always defend his list.
We must stress that the job of Super Eagles coach is a big one by all standards and this is largely because football is the number one sport in Nigeria and people love the game. The talents are there in the country at youth and senior levels and it is expected that getting results at all levels in the national teams should be a given. No doubt, the administration of the game is a major issue because the Nigeria Football Federation determines who handles each of the national teams and the backroom staff members of the respective teams.
The federation also appoints teams into key positions especially the Technical Director and the technical department where, ordinarily, the direction of the country’s football is determined. Over the years, however, we are aware the NFF’s Technical Department, which currently has ex-international Austin Eguavoen as head, plays no role in the determination of who handles the national team, especially the Super Eagles, or determination of a pattern or transition from age grade to the senior level.
Rohr, after about five years on the job, has been struggling to come up with a pattern for the team and also to raise the standard of the team to the level expected of an expatriate coach. So far, Rohr has been able to qualify the Eagles for the Nations Cup and placed third, qualified the team for the World Cup and lost in the first round. Looking back, late Stephen Keshi won the AFCON trophy for the country in 2013 and also earned a second round ticket at the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil. And so, we insist that the ‘so-called’ foreign coach (Rohr) has not done anything extraordinary in his position despite his huge monthly salary of about $50,000. As it is, Nigeria’s quest for a place in the Qatar 2022 World Cup is hanging in the balance and the NFF must act swiftly to guarantee Eagles’ qualification for the Mundial.