The coach of the Nigeria national team, Gernot Rohr, has given his thoughts on the thrilling 3-2 win recorded by the Super Eagles on Saturday over their fierce rivals, Cameroon, at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.
The Super Eagles, who had suffered a shock loss to lowly rated Madagascar in their last group game, were written off by many of their critics before the clash against the defending champions
However, Rohr’s men redeemed themselves against Cameroon to progress to the quarterfinals.
Saturday’s feat was the sixth time Nigeria knocked out a defending champion from an AFCON tournament.
In 1976, the then Green Eagles captained by Christian Chukwu mauled then Cup holders Zaire (now DR Congo) 4-2 in Ethiopia.
At the 1984 AFCON held in Cote ‘d Ivoire, Nigeria edged Cup holders Ghana 2-1.
Ten years later at Tunisia 1994, the Super Eagles sent packing Cup holders Cote d’Ivoire after penalties in the semi-final. They went on to win their second Afcon title afterward.
A decade after again in 2004, it was the Super Eagles that bundled out Cameroon (winners in Mali in 2002) 2-1 in a quarterfinal match in Monastir, Tunisia.
Two years later, incidentally in Egypt, the Super Eagles ejected Cup holders Tunisia after penalties in an interesting quarterfinal match in Port Said.
Reacting after Saturday’s game, Rohr said his team could not wait to make up for their embarrassing performance in the game against Madagascar.
“I know my team and I know that since last Sunday, they want to really do well and win for all the players who made some mistakes,” the 66-year-old manager told the media after the 3-2 win over the Indomitable Lions.
“We lost the game we never had to lose against Madagascar, but it was a lesson of humility and also the motivation to do really well [against Cameroon].
“We wanted to finish first in the group but we could not. The most important for us was to win this match of the last 16. It happened when I was in Gabon, we won the three matches as host country and we lost in the quarterfinals after 120 minutes via penalties. So sometimes it’s better to have one loss in the group stage and then win in the knockout games.
Rohr, who came under severe criticism following Nigeria’s unimpressive showing in the group stage, stated that his players showed signs of belief in a comeback during the half-time break.
“I have a team with good spirit and good solidarity. Even in half-time when the moment was difficult, I saw that we could still believe in it. Because in the first half, we were the better team, but we conceded those two goals in the end of the first half. And so we had to be very strong mentally to come back in the match.
“The beginning of the second half was not so easy, but then, we came back. And I think physical fitness helped us also.
“We had two days more to prepare for the match. We could stay in Alexandria in this nice place, with a good climate not so hot like Cairo, and this could help us also,” Rohr stated.
“But I must say that my young team have this desire to win even if it’s difficult. Cameroon didn’t concede any goal in the three matches with a big goalkeeper playing in the Champions League. The challenge was to score a goal, but to score three goals was wonderful.”
Nigeria will face South Africa in the quarterfinal after the Bafana Bafana shocked hosts Egypt 1-0 in the other Round of 16 fixture played on Saturday.
The Nigeria game against South Africa is billed for Wednesday, July 10.
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