Gernot Rohr would not only be expected to return the Super Eagles to winning ways against Sierra Leone in November Afcon qualifiers, his team will also be expected to record their first clean sheet in over 12 months having conceded at least 1 goal in each of our last 6 games.
The last time Nigeria’s defence proved impregnable was in the Afcon 3rd place playoff against Tunisia on July 17 2019.
Looking back now, that win against Tunisia was a precious one because ‘victory’ is also something the Super Eagles are finding hard to come by lately having managed just 2 wins (against Benin and Lesotho) in our last 6 games.
One can argue that the loss and draws recorded by Rohr’s Super Eagles between August 2019 and October 2020 were against formidable oppositions in the way of Algeria, Brazil, Tunisia and Ukraine.
But this argument would be odd, wouldn’t it?
After all, one of Rohr’s greatest appeal and mojo was his ability to overcome seemingly hopeless odds and inescapable defeats.
These were evident in the way he brushed heavyweights Cameroon and Algeria aside to qualify Nigeria for Russia 2018 and then demolish World Cup winners Argentina in a famous 4:2 victory in the 2017 friendly.
So, what has changed?
Is Rohr’s Super Eagles no longer a giant killing outfit?
What we are seeing is the slow chipping away of what had made Rohr untouchable earlier in his Super Eagles reign.
Even the mantle of invisibility surrounding Nigeria’s rise in the Fifa rankings is starting to ebb away as the Super Eagles slipped down 1 place in Africa in the latest table; we gave way to a team that is truly on the rise: Algeria.
I believe that there are warning signs from the outcome of the most recent matches of the Super Eagles. This is a team that will concede goal(s) against any calibre of opposition; a team with the propensity to let victory slip through their fingers.
Despite pulling from the widest possible pool of available players, the absence of team members like Osimhen, Ndidi, Aribo and Etebo could still have a devastating effect on how the team performs.
But is it all bad? I don’t think so.
In the last 12 months, Nigeria remains a team that will be hard for any opposition to break down easily. New players like Sanusi and Akpoguma are being introduced to the team without any destabilising effects – indeed they have proved to be worthwhile additions to the squad.
Other exciting additions are in the pipeline, thanks to Rohr.
But glaring questions remain : are we just papering over obvious cracks? Is the love for Rohr blinding many fans to the fact that the Super Eagles could have punched slightly above their weight in the past 12 months?
Nigeria will face Sierra Leone in an Afcon qualifier double header this month in games we are expected to win.
Nothing will suffice other than a minimum of 4 points laced with convincing displays from the Super Eagles.
If not, then it will definitely be panic-stations!
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