After steering the Super Eagles to three victories out of three, Gernot Rohr is now hailed from all quarters in Nigeria as the messiah of Nigerian football. Before now the Super Eagles have played without sheen, struggling defensively at times, and failing to bite at the front. For over two decades now, Nigeria’s senior team have been handled by a plethora of coaches, home grown and foreign, who have failed to convince the fans to put faith in them during their stints. At a point in time, I blamed our impatience for lack of good results, because even Clemence Westerhof, who handled the Super Eagles in the early to mid 90’s, was given enough time to build a team which is even till this day, considered as Nigeria’s best. Nevertheless, at a time when many have given up on the Super Eagles. At a time when our junior teams have faltered, Gernot Rohr has given Nigeria something to cheer. We use to be a team that will struggle to qualify for every world cup , or would at least leave it late till the final qualification match. But as things stand, on the road to Russia, the opposite is the case. Nigeria is far ahead of the second placed team — Cameroon — in the “Group of Death”. The big question is, what is the secret behind Rohr’s success? Let us consider seven points:
- Gernot Rohr came to succeed. His approach to monitoring the players, to the extent of visiting them at their clubs, and forming a bond with their managers at the club level, shows that he is thorough, never leaving anything to chance. Come to think of it. He even personally employed a match reader to be part of his technical team. His every move and body language shows that he is in Nigeria not for the money alone, but for the love of Nigerians, the Super Eagles, and the game.
- Team selection and invitation. His decisions as to the selection of players have been without bias and sentiments. He he has shown he is no above mistakes. Take for example the case of John Ogu. After making it clear that Igiebor was in the team because he was a better player than Ogu, he later backtracked and invited Ogu, after he was briefed about the exploit of the player in Israel. This man has a healthy ego — an area where many of our past coaches, especially the indigenous ones, have struggled.
- He respects order. He came to find Mikel Obi as captain. He maintained the status quo because it was logical to do so, seeing that Mikel was deserving of the position. This has helped the team spirit, which is a very important ingredient in team success. Ironically, Rohr has shown good leadership, respecting the structure of leadership.
- Blazing attackers at his disposal. Nigeria’s current attack is arguably the best in Africa. The likes of Iwobi, Iheanacho, Moses, Etebo, Musa, is a blend of experience, youth, and doggedness. We have won all our matches due to our superiority in attack. We have created and converted chances, whereas our opponents have failed to utilize their chances. Else we will be talking about two draws out of two, in the World Cup qualification campaign so far.
- Ekong and Balogun partnership. Although our central defense may not be spotless, this duo have frustrated all opponents and have been able to keep Nigeria surviving despite minimal support from their full back counterparts.
- Winning mentality. While our opponents focus on talking too much, Rohr have always stuck to one theme, without saying much — “we want to win, nothing less. Now that Cameroon has sounded out that they will beat the Super Eagles, home and away, Rohr is busy planning on spying on them at the AFCON. Talk don’t win matches, but proactive steps. Need I mention our indigenous coaches who are known for saying, “we don’t know much about our opponents, but we will play our own game”? This man, Rohr, means business, and as it has to do with qualification to Russia, he wants it done as soon as possible.
- Inability of our opponents to exploit our weaknesses. Rohr has simply been quite lucky with the formation he has been adopting. I consider him lucky because, our opponents have failed to do their homework. If our opponents had focused on exploiting us at the wings, we will not be singing Rohr’s praise today. While he has been lucky, getting away with the 4-2-3-1 formation, he may need to pay attention to the strengths of our players and deploy a formation that will bring out the best in them. I will delve more into this in a future opinion piece.