When Gernot Rohr was unveiled in Nigeria on August 9, he was practically unknown and unheralded. Truth be told, many thought and believed that the Nigeria Football Federation and its president, Amaju Pinnick, had continued on their perceived mission of taking the country and its football on another wild goose chase.
Indeed history has a splendid way of repeating itself. When Clemens Westerhof was appointed Super Eagles coach in 1989, practically he was Mr. Nobody to the Nigerian public and so has been the case of Gernot Rohr. But what has the former Bayern Munich player done, or what is he doing that has revitalized a team that looked jaundiced and battle weary?
When the NFF revealed their choice of manager, many of us had to recourse to Wikipedia. That research ultimately led to smirks and sighs as we discovered that our darling team had been handed over to a coach who had formerly made a living coaching Niger.
But, here are 10 reasons Rohr is succeeding.
- There is only one focus
Normally, the Super Eagles would be preparing for the Nations Cup tournament in January and Rohr would have been appointed on the premise of getting to the semi-final at the least. But that is the last of his challenges. The NFF had to give him an initial two-year contract that takes in only qualifying for Russia 2018.
- Unbiased selection process
We used to have a lot of questions and queries on the ‘secret’ criterion that was used to invite players to the Super Eagles’ camp – but we are now seeing the result of players knowing that form and availability means that Rohr would give them a just chance in the Eagles’ team.
- Ability to put out correct XIs
Good coaches get their line-ups correct 90% of the time – the 10% they have the ability to correct with substitutions. In his three matches – against Tanzania, Zambia and Algeria, Rohr has gotten his starting XI spot on to execute his plans.
- Creating hunger in the players
It has been a long time that players in the Super Eagles showed any passion for their exalted positions. But it is palpable in this new team with the way and manner they have responded to call-ups, training and in their matches.
- NFF are in a precarious situation
It has not been a really good year for the NFF and they are banking on getting the Super Eagles to Russia to ameliorate a poor performance index. This has allowed Rohr to have his way on team matters that have been altogether altruistic and positively instrumental in the early successes.
- There is nothing to lose for the 63-year-old
Having coached at Bordeaux, Nice, Young Boys, Ajaccio, Etoile du Sahel, Nantes, Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso – a career spanning 26 years, the 63-year-old is finally looking at a last hurrah.
- German mentality of proper organisation
One of the more apparent changes in the Super Eagles is the organisation and structure that has come to bear and is bearing fruits. Though there are still gaps – the team is sturdier and better prepared for impending match scenarios.
- Key players getting good playing time at their clubs
A coach or manager is as good as his players. Apart from Mikel Obi and Elderson Echiejile, most of the players Rohr has sent out in his first three matches are having good playing times at their various clubs. This scenario is reminiscent of how Westerhof succeeded in Nigeria – almost all his key players were first teamers with their European clubs.
- Mikel has finally become a true catalyst
Whichever way you look at it, Mikel Obi has started living up to being a positive catalyst for the Eagles. In years past, this would not have been true but the Chelsea midfielder has grown into the part of being the leader of this team and he is truly leading by example.
- A depth of squad that is keeping everyone on their toes
In the 23 that were used for the match against Algeria, senior strikers like Odion Ighalo and Brown were unused substitutes. Ahmed Musa, the assistant captain started on the bench while there are still very good players that are currently on the outside but who will definitely improve this team. Rohr has an abundance of talents to call, especially in offensive positions.
Looking to the future
Rohr is currently fast assuming the status of the country’s messiah in football – that is comparatively with what obtained before he was contracted.
Three months after the appointment and not being privy to the criteria the NFF used for that selection, you and I are suddenly buoyant and optimistic. So what are the specific things that have changed under Rohr’s leadership?
When Group D of CAF’s 2018 World Cup was revealed to compose Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia as Nigeria’s opponents, many of us simply gave up; but two matches into the six-match series, the Eagles are four points clear at the top of the table.
Better FIFA ranked Cameroon have managed just two points from their two matches while Algeria sit at the foot of the table with one point while Zambia also boast one point.
But we have to also agree that fate has played its hand in favour of Rohr’s Eagles. Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia have contrived to cancel themselves out to give the Eagles an improbable lead though it is still too early to say Uhuru.
But come August 28, 2017 – if the Eagles get another three points in Uyo against the Lions of Cameroon and Zambia can hold Algeria [we are dreaming] then Russia would be so much closer for the landing of the Super Eagles.
The above does not negate what Rohr’s contribution has been to the Eagles having capacity to soar once again.
You could also say time and chance happened to Rohr but you will in fairness have to concede to the German coach that he has shown an adeptness to recognise that it is his and the Eagles’ time!