Nigeria’s Super Eagles have only ever lost once to the Benin Republic in 14 meetings since 1977 while the Squirrels have not lost at home since 2013 and they can point to a 2017 win over the home-based Super Eagles.
Gernot Rohr and his team will have to go the extra mile if they want to return from Porto Novo with the points or point that already guarantees a slot in Cameroon next year.
PREMIUM TIMES takes a critical look at this Super Eagles team and the questions from the Nigerian football fans that need to be answered by Rohr.
Will Rohr tweak his preferred formation?
The most in-form strikers in the 24-man Super Eagles squad are Kelechi Iheanacho and Paul Onuachu, but based on Gernot Rohr’s antecedents, both will probably start on the substitutes’ bench against the Squirrels of Benin Republic on Saturday in Porto Novo.
We can simply explain this away as Rohr’s fixation on a 4-3-3 formation, despite other elements that should cause a change. They say a manager is as good as the players at his disposal, but will Rohr tweak his formation to employ the form of either Iheanacho and Onuachu?
Have the Eagles really learned their lesson?
When a team loses a four-goal advantage at home to a lesser-ranked team, who should be blamed? The manager or the players? Rohr said after the 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone last November that he warned his players, but they did not heed his admonitions. They have two games to show how far they learned the lesson that John Keister’s team dished out. Will it be another case of ‘I told them, but they did not listen’?
Has Rohr improved his competencies?
Last November, in a moment of anger and unbelief that the Super Eagles lost a four-goal lead at home, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, wrote on Twitter, “The performance of the Super Eagles from their last two matches calls to question the suitability and competences of Technical Adviser, [Gernot] Rohr. Nigerian football deserves better. The needful will be done. Apologies to all football lovers”.
Since this statement was made, relationships have been patched up and the 67-year-old is still in his position to deliver, according to the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, “we can now focus on qualifying for the  World Cup and winning the Nations Cup. In truth, these are sacrosanct and Coach Rohr is aware of these conditions.”
The question that begs an answer is in the five months since that Sierra Leone debacle, has Rohr improved in any way?
Have the Eagles improved in his 54-month stint?
Rohr’s tenure as Super Eagles boss is in its 54th month and if he continues till the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022, it will become the longest single stint tenure for a coach of the national team.
Rohr took over the reins of the team from Sunday Oliseh in 2016 and has managed the team in 44 matches, winning exactly half of that total and lost 10 times. When the former Bordeaux manager took over, FIFA ranked the Eagles 67th in the world FIFA now ranks the Eagles in 36th place.
In the 44 matches, the team has scored 65 goals and conceded 43. The jury is out on whether he has improved the team during his long tenure, though many will argue there are no fears and there have been no hiccups from the team qualifying for any major tournament under his watch.
Are the Eagles a better collection under Rohr?
We build elite teams from elements and in this case, the building blocks are the players and no manager can aspire to be great with average or below average player. This argument cannot be contested, even though the clout of the manager can be a beacon for better players to buy into the overall project.
The NFF president favours players born outside the country and playing outside the country: the most notable name that was drafted into the team in the last 18 months has been Cyriel Dessers, who is not in the reckoning again. How many better players have bought into Rohr’s Nigerian project?
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...