The coach of the Nigeria national team, Gernot Rohr, has tried to explain possible factors responsible for the Super Eagles’ shocking 2-0 defeat against Madagascar at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Sunday.
While Rohr admitted that his players performed below-par, he was quick to state that Madagascar team are also a good team and there was nothing to be ashamed of, losing to the team that first secured qualification for AFCON in 2019.
Sunday’s defeat ended the Super Eagles unbeaten run of nine games in the biennial show piece since 2010 and also saw them finish as Group B runners-up.
Lalaina Nomenjanahary broke the deadlock in the 13th minute after benefitting from a defensive slip from Leon Balogun.
The three-time African champions found it difficult to score an equaliser and Carolus Andriamahitsinoro doubled the lead for Madagascar with his deflected free-kick in the 53rd minute.
In his assessment of the team’s display, Rohr said his players were ‘relaxed’ but he was not surprised by the result.
“We lost to a good team because Madagascar was the first to qualify for the tournament and there is no shame in losing to such a team,” Rohr said in his post-match interview.
“Madagascar was the better team today (Sunday). We started with giving them a gift and after, we could not find a solution. We made five changes because we wanted to give a rest to some players and also preserve those with cards.
“Sometimes it happens when you are already qualified; the players are relaxed and playing easy.”
Having finished as runners-up in their group, Nigeria will now face the second placed team in Group F, which houses powerhouses Cameroon and Ghana as well as Benin Republic and Equatorial Guinea.
Rohr has assured that his team will prepare very well and give the game their best shot.