Gernot Rohr: Pressure mounts on Nigeria coach despite World Cup play-off qualification

5 months ago 3204
Nigeria coach Gernot RohrGernot Rohr has been in charge of Nigeria since 2016

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr faced intense criticism and speculation over his future despite his team progressing to Africa's 2022 World Cup play-offs.

The Super Eagles, three-time African champions, finished top of Group C despite being held 1-1 by Cape Verde in Lagos on Tuesday.

However, the nervy performance of the team, a lacklustre display and Rohr's conservative approach has been heavily criticised by the local media and fans.

Rohr still seems to have the backing of his players.

"What's important is getting to the next stage of the qualifying, that's what the target was and I'm proud we could achieve that," Napoli striker Victor Osimhen told BBC Sport Africa.

Nigeria would have been eliminated if they had lost against Cape Verde, and the widely-circulated Punch Newspaper pointed out that a "lacklustre" side "survived [a] Blue Sharks onslaught".

Meanwhile, the authoritative Guardian Nigeria newspaper added it was a "narrow escape" for the Super Eagles.

One of the brightest spots in a rather lethargic campaign, scoring four of Nigeria's nine goals in Group C, Osimhen believes the team has scaled the biggest test in front of them this year.

"It's not possible for me to claim the glory for our success, it takes a team to succeed and we all make a big impact," he added.

"Sometimes you don't need to focus on what should've been, instead you need to look at what you achieve - given the fact that it's a competitive process to reach the World Cup."

Moses Simon, who plays for French club Nantes, is also delighted with the play-off spot and echoes Osimhen's sentiments.

"We know our fans expect more from the team and we believe we can do more," he added.

"The players have a role to play and hopefully we can continue to improve and make our fans happy."

Home not so sweet home

The Nigeria team before facing Cape Verde in a World Cup qualifierIn Group C of World Cup qualifying Nigeria won just one of their three games at home

Nigeria managed just one win from three at home in the qualifiers as they beat Liberia 2-0, before losing to 115th-ranked Central African Republic and ending with Tuesday's uninspiring draw.

The lifeless home run has also brought Rohr's management and coaching of the team into the spotlight as he approaches six years in charge of the side.

While the squad were not booed off the field at full-time in Lagos, there were some chants from disappointed fans for the Franco-German to be fired.

"We understand the mood of the public and our supporters, but it will be unwise to take such a drastic decision about the coach," a top Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) official told the BBC.

"It's true that the performance was not so appealing but the man hasn't failed. People should look beyond this moment and remember there's the Nations Cup to come.

"The World Cup play-off follows in March so what the coach needs is our full support. He will not get the sack."

But social media was much less forgiving and the Nigerian media and pundits raised the question of whether it was time for the country to appoint a coach who can bring the best out of the players.

Angry supporters poured out their frustration online, while some opted for the phone-in shows on popular Brila FM to criticise the coach.

The country's first daily sport newspaper Complete Sports quoted former international Jonathan Akpoborie as saying "Rohr must search for a creative player before play-off."

The former Stuttgart and Wolfsburg of Germany striker, who won the maiden Under-17 World Cup with Nigeria in 1985, admits things must change for the team ahead of the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon and next year's World Cup playoffs.

"If we are going to win our play-off, then Rohr must begin the search for a true creative midfielder," said Akpoborie.

Solace Chukwu, sports editor of PulseNigeria, said he expected Rohr to be given a chance to turn things around.

"Those calling for Rohr's sacking must remember that it's really a short time now for any manager to come in and turn things around," said Chukwu.

"There's the World Cup play-off and of course the important matter of the Nations Cup. So far, he has successfully delivered results in his own way.

"I'm not one to ask for another man to lose his job. Even though the playing style is truly frustrating; but coach Rohr hasn't failed on the job."

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