After the Super Eagles crashed out in the opening round of the World Cup, should the German coach stick around?
DEBATE By Kunle Fayiga & Seye Omidiora
After Nigeria’s Super Eagles crashed out in the opening round of the World Cup, does Gernot Rohr deserve to keep his job?
In this feature, two Goal journalists debate whether he’s done enough to avoid the axe…
Comment below, and let us know whose point of view you agree with
Fayiga: Rohr deserves to stay
The Franco-German coach took the reins when the Super Eagles were at their lowest ebb after Sunday Oliseh’s tenure.
This made the job of getting the team back in shape all the more tasking and demanding. The former Burkina Faso manager has however succeeded in building a team by blending experience with youth.
These fine crop of players were able to go through a very tough qualifying group with Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia unbeaten, which might not have been possible under another person’s watch.
That Nigeria had the youngest squad at the 2018 World Cup is also no mean feat, but such is clear sign that this is a team for the future.
Credit has to be given to Rohr for seeing players like Leon Balogun, Alex Iwobi, William Troost-Ekong, Brian Idowu and Tyronne Ebuehi show commitment to playing for Nigeria and integrate them into the side.
It’s a battle to make foreign-raised players pledge allegiance to their fatherland, but they’ve shown dedication and commitment and have become beloved at home.
Rohr has also shown support by using players in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
He has often been seen at different venues making assessment of players, and has been able to give the likes of current top scorer Junior Lokosa some action. He started a couple of NPFL stars in the friendly with Corsica last year, and Ikechukwu Ezenwa is also now part of the goalkeeping roster, having played four times during the qualifiers.
Questions might be raised over Rohr’s squad selections and tactical approach to games, but it’s only a phase which he will get to learn from. A case is switching captain John Obi Mikel back to a deeper role in midfield after excelling in an advanced position during the qualifiers.
There was too much pressure and expectation on Rohr when he came on board, but he’s gone about his job with calmness, not playing blame games on players and officials, but rather looking to improve the team.
The atmosphere in the Super Eagles camp has been known to be frosty under previous managers, but things have been relaxed and favourable under Rohr, with no external influence coming in to disrupt things like in times past.
The one-time Bayern Munich player, without an iota of doubt, deserves to continue even after the World Cup setback.
Omidiora: It’s time for Rohr to go
For Rohr, the disappointment of seeing his young Eagles crash out in gut-wrenching fashion against Argentina may linger for a while yet.
Inasmuch as many might feel he’s done a good job and needs to stay on as captain of this ship, I reckon he’s run his race and needs to pass on the baton… but before biting my head off, hear me out.
Early on in Nigeria’s qualifying run to the World Cup, the West Africans may have had an unblemished record after a couple of games, but those displays were characterized by many defensive mistakes and it certainly is frustrating that two years on, the Eagles’ soft underbelly lingers and it ultimately cost them in Russia.
That, coupled with the fact that he seemed bizarrely unable to pick his best side from the pool of players available, showed a disturbing sign of indecision.
Then there was the tactical inflexibility and refusal to drop underperforming players, which was definitely a head scratcher. Whether the German tactician seemed unable to spot players who were seemingly playing below par or he felt obliged to reward a few personalities in the dressing room is anyone’s guess, but then proceeding to eventually effect seemingly glaring changes in the face of the unending uproar was definitely telling.
Standing by one’s beliefs isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but wanting to repeat the same things over and over when they’re not working is a red flag.
Rohr’s past jobs with African nations had seen him perform reasonably poorly at Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso, so it was a bit of a surprise he got a vote of confidence from Nigeria. Following the indifferent reaction to his appointment, he admittedly went on to prove critics wrong with an amazing World Cup qualifying run under minimal pressure. However, when the pressure cranked up, the German seemed bereft of ideas and played reactively, and not on the front foot.
Following the nation’s exit from the global showpiece, motivation to pick himself up, dust himself down and get back on the horse may prove a bridge too far for the tactician. With foundations already in place, all that’s needed is a different captain at the helm to steer this already off-kilter ship from colliding with an iceberg.