Coach Gernot Rohr, who is currently the Technical Adviser of Nigeria’s Super Eagles, tutored the country’s senior National team that have already picked 2018 World Cup ticket. IKENNA OKONKWO spoke with the German-Franco Gaffer on his plans for the mundial, even as he awaits
two-year contract extention.
Road to Russia
Just like everybody else, I told myself the qualification process would not be easy but I had a good feeling. Why? Because Super Eagles were not favourite of the group. The first favourites were Algeria. Remember that they were number one in Africa at that time and perhaps the second favourite were Cameroon and we were the third and everybody said Zambia were perhaps fourth.
We could see now at the end, we emerged first, Zambia second, Cameroon third and Algeria fourth. It’s always better not to be favourite when you get to a competition and for me, I already accept the mission with the condition we must carry first if not, its finished for me.
For me, the situation was a big challenge and I was very confident because I saw the players we had. We have good young players. Before the qualifier began, we had a good friendly game. From then, the team kept getting better and better. Along the line, we had some injuries, some sicknesses also, some very important positions were affected and we had to work very hard to be able to find a solution on some positions. Not only the technical staff, the medical staff did their best and we developed a very good spirit which helped us to go straight to the qualification.
The Game plan and many hurdles
The plan was to make a good statement in the competition and to make a very good first game. I remembered that before the first game, we only had one preparation game against Tanzania, and the few days we were in Abuja before going coupled with the last moment we went to Ndola to play Zambia. I remembered that night it was raining, nobody could sleep, lots of noise and we woke up by four o’clock in the morning. We got to the airport at six, waiting for some people before taking the plane which lasted five hours to Ndola.
We arrived and it didn’t take much time before training, we were not even able to make the training on time before the actual time of the match. The short preparation was interesting because everybody had to be on the top level of focus and concentration and in solidarity. The first game was very important for us to win it and Iwobi was the man who got a very important goal after a long throw in from Wilfred Ndidi who played right back at the last moment because there was a problem in that position and I put Ndidi in other to play right back and he did very well. Kelechi Iheanacho made the second goal, he got the goal in the second half against the good team from Zambia because the team was making draw after the second game with Cameroon and they are coming in the second half. Carl Ikeme saved our victory because he made three of the fantastic saving and we will never forget how he brought us on the right way that made us start very.
The most difficult qualifier game
All the matches were difficult. All the games were difficult. When you take a look at the first game, we have spoken about that already, the match was difficult. The end of the game was difficult. But in all, the return leg against Zambia in Uyo was most difficult.
World Cup plans
Yes, it is the highest level in the world of football. That’s why, it is a world cup, best teams will go there, so we need the best players, we need to know exactly what the level is. I have the chance to coach some players that have been world champions including Zinedine Zidane. I know we must be very strong to go far in this competition because these players I had were the very good players. We also have good players but I think we must have a better team.
We must work very hard to be able to come out of the group. We can’t afford to fail. My career is at stake. And I know the players too will want to advance their career with the world cup. In preparing to be in Russia, we will need to play a good number of quality friendly games.
Already, we have a friendly game lined up after Algeria match because of the need to play friendly within that time. Friendly matches will prepare us well. While we are playing the friendly matches, we use it to perhaps see new players who are able to come. We don’t need so much new players because the players who brought us to the world cup, they did so well that I cannot put somebody out of the team.
If I don’t have somebody who is better, we will be focused and give our players other opportunities to do better. It is always the question that all the players that brought us to the world cup this year get also to play. You cannot tell them you brought us to the world cup, now you stay at the bench, they also want to play but there can be some possibilities to make a rotation depending on the work of the team. We have some players now and unfortunately were injured. We have one defender injured, mid-fielder injured and we do not know what will happen in the next games. All the time, they play in their club in the week. The more we play together, the more we understand each other better.
Coping with Nigerian environment
The pass is past, we had some difficult moments also but the good thing is that you see other people, and we are all the same. Perhaps, in difficult moment and we could learn a lot. The team made up of the staff also now need solidarity and everyone should go in the same direction, the larger environment too. We need everybody from the federation to come let’s make a good work together and we don’t need people who want to be negative.
We want positive minded people to have a good work in a good spirit. If we want to have fun together, we have to win the games and to be together to prepare well. We should also listen to some good advices from our environment especially the technical staff because we have to do better at the world cup.
We always want to win but we should be realistic also. Going out of the group would be wonderful and then we go to the quarter finals and to the semi finals and final. We are ambitious. I want to have the best players and the best players are the spirit of our young team to respect our philosophy. We have to have the best players at first, everybody can make it if he agrees to take the discipline in our spirit.
Perception about African players
The difference between the francophone counties and Nigeria is that I have more discipline in Nigeria players. They don’t have the same education like the francophone countries. The players in francophone countries have French mentality. They have some distraction sometimes not always with good discipline. They like to have fun and like life but the young team in Nigeria, we have a good discipline and a good spirit and its better here than in francophone countries.