The Super Eagles of Nigeria kicked off the 2020/21 season with Coach Gernot Rohr overseeing his 11th loss in 38 matches for the West African country following a rather deflating 1:0 loss to Algeria on October 9 which has left a section of fans asking questions about how good the team really is.
The build up to the match had been very exciting with fans waiting to see what the players they had recently been showering endless praises will do against a formidable opposition. This was much an examination on Coach Rohr and to see whether he has learnt the lessons from his previous 10 Super Eagles defeats leading up to this encounter.
From the way I see it, the German tactician provided more ammunition to those who for a long time have questioned his tactical acumen going into this match.
Coach Rohr is liked by a large section of Super Eagles supporters who are only too happy to overlook his glaring shortcomings because of Nigeria’s meteoric rise in the FIFA rankings since he took over.
And yes, certain things are undeniable in so far as how well Nigeria has fared under the German. For me, it’s all about the ‘D’ word which is “DIRECTION”. A lot of fans – rightly so in my view – see the Super Eagles going in the ‘Right Direction’ under the former Niger Republic coach and how the hell can you argue against that?
Upward trajectory in FIFA rankings; assembling an exciting cohort of players; qualifying for tournaments with games to spare; injecting stability and discipline to the national team and providing a solid foundation for at least the next 10 years for Nigeria with the calibre of players at our disposal – it is hard to see why Rohr fans would not be vitriolic in their condemnation of anyone trying to tarnish what Rohr is doing for the newly so called rejuvenated Super Eagles of Nigeria.
But is the 67 year old German beyond reprimand? I don’t think so!
And watching the game last night, I saw quite a lot of areas that caused me concern about this Super Eagles side that cannot seem to “get the job done” when the chips are down. The same areas of concern I saw against Serbia, England, Czech Republic and Croatia almost 2 years ago were re-enacted right before my very eyes in 90 minutes against an Algerian side who proved to me that Nigeria seldom learns from her mistakes under Rohr.
The tactics of the Algerians last night weren’t too dissimilar to the same ploy they employed against us just over 12 months ago: neutralise the wings by ganging up on wingers who would rather attempt take-ons than release the ball early; isolate Nigeria’s lone centre forward (who lacks mobility anyway); pile on pressure earlier on to force Nigeria to be complicit in the goal they concede; hone in on individual Nigerian players like a pack of wolves (or foxes) all across the pitch thereby rendering impotent any hope of Nigeria dictating the tempo long enough to bring about Algeria’s downfall; and (most annoying to me), stab Nigeria with the 1 dagger which seems to always strike straight their heart – set pieces (they won with a set piece in the Afcon and they won with another set piece here).
All these were predictable but Nigeria has now blown away 6 points against Algeria within 18 months due to factors all too familiar!
I saw a Super Eagles side yesterday that laboured to gain the respect of their opponents. The Algerian goalkeeper would hardly call this his most challenging match whilst their defenders could give themselves a pat on the back for effectively neutralising our tame attacking forays.
Where the Super Eagles did string together decent passes leading to the Algerian delicate zones, the key passes to do the most damage in the final 3rd were often lacking. When the Super Eagles did settle into a rhythm, it was often at the part of the pitch where no horror could be brought to bear on the Algerians.
It just seemed as if Coach Gernot Rohr had no answer to the tactical approach and defensive discipline of the Algerians. Whereas Nigeria could bounce back from going a goal down against the likes of Lesotho and Benin, Algeria were always going to be a tougher proposition.
It then begs the question: did Rohr learn anything at all from conceding first against Benin and Lesotho? People say lightening should not strike twice but the same lightening has struck Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles 3 times with the German seeming clueless as to how to respond.
Nigeria lost yesterday’s match 1:0 against the Algerians but it wasn’t all that bad. They did contain the Desert Foxes for patches in the game whilst players like Sanusi, Iwobi, Okoye and Balogun gave fans something to cheer about.
Next stop now is another friendly against Tunisia before crucial Afcon and World Cup qualifiers for the reminder of the 2020/21 season.
We Super Eagles fans can rave about all the exciting indigenous and foreign-born players currently at our disposal. But until key lessons are learnt and these players can play as a cohesive, well-oiled, well drilled unit, they will always come short when faced with opposition with the sort of technical nous that Algeria displayed yesterday.
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