Gernot Rohr, has cautioned fans who are already dreaming of Nigeria winning the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) next year in Cameroon to exercise patience with the team.
The former Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso gaffer who is still savouring qualifying Nigeria for the African football showpiece after Eagles missed the last two editions, insisted he has a young squad yet that needs time to blend into a formidable force in the continent.
“It’s too early to start talking about winning. We have a very young squad,” observed Rohr to BBC Sports yesterday.
Super Eagles drew 1-1 with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana on Saturday at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg after taking an early lead through an own-goal. The one point picked from the game was enough to qualify Nigeria to Cameroon 2019 on 10 points with the last game with Seychelles to spare.
The feat was Rohr’s second for the three-time African champions. He had similarly qualified Nigeria for last summer’s World Cup in Russia with a game to spare.
He praised the experience gained by the team at Russia 2018 as the motivating factor why Eagles are yet to be beaten in any competitive game after the Mundial.
“We learned a lot at the World Cup (in Russia). After reaching the World Cup, this was our second target, we did it,” stressed Rohr who missed the absence of four key players in the ‘Battle of Jo’burg’ on Saturday afternoon.
“Our plan was to play (South Africa) like a final. I’m happy for this young team because our four regular players were not here.
“The second choice goalkeeper (Ikechukwu) Ezenwa had a good game. Everybody did well. If the striker Odion Ighalo was here maybe we would have scored more,” Rohr added.
Inspirational Captain, John Mikel Obi, dependable midfield enforcer, Wilfred Ndidi, leading AFCON 2019 scorer for Nigeria, Ighalo and first choice goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho were unavoidably absent from the trip to South Africa.
However, Rohr who is not know to blame bad referee calls for whatever result handed to him by his ward, was adamant that Ahmed Musa’s disallowed goal was deserving one for Nigeria.
“The goal scored by our captain Musa was a good goal and not offside. I think it was a wrong call by the officials,” Rohr insisted. “I don’t criticise the referee but maybe our captain was too fast technically for the linesman.”
The Super Eagles won the Nations Cup in 1980, 1994 and 2013 – that last triumph coming after they missed the 2012 tournament. They failed to qualify for 2015 and 2017 editions respectively.
Super Eagles have 10 points from five games at the top of the group, with South Africa in second on nine points, two ahead of Libya with one qualifying match remaining.
The South Africans must now go to North Africa in March to face the Libyans and avoid defeat to seal a place at the Nations Cup finals in Cameroon starting in June 2019.
Libya defeated Seychelles 8-1 in the other match in the pool earlier on Saturday.