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Gone with the wind: Sierra Leone 0:0 Nigeria

The wait for Super Eagles fans to taste that sweet honey called victory will have to continue as Nigeria laboured to a dour draw against a spirited Sierra Leonean side in an Afcon qualifier second leg in Freetown today to pile more pressure on German tactician Gernot Rohr (as even some of his most hardcore supporters are now starting to re-evaluate their love for a coach who – not that long ago – could do no wrong).

After the first leg had ended in a 4-4 draw, a defeat in almost everything but name for Nigeria when you consider Rohr’s men had been leading 4 goals to nothing, the president of the NFF said afterwards: “We must go to Freetown and beat them at least four goals so that they will know truly the Eagles have landed. So we should double our effort and go to Freetown and win that game by 4-0 because it is very symbolic so that they will know that what happened in Nigeria was a fluke.”

The second leg has now come and gone with the Super Eagles failing to avenge the draw that was rightly received by Pinnick and a vast majority of Super Eagles fans as a home loss – and a painful one at that. In contrast, it was the Sierra Leoneans who showed the Nigerians that the result in Benin was no fluke with today’s nail-biting 0:0 draw.

Rohr and his boys can point to the deplorable Siaka Stevens Freetown National Stadium pitch as part of the reasons why their revenge mission failed. But I doubt very seriously that fans (or Mr Pinnick) will sympathise too much with that excuse more so as the starting 11 released by the coach failed to inspire much confidence from the off.

A lot of fans were despondent to see Akpoguma starting again after his shambolic display in the first leg while many had expected the more experienced Akpeyi to replace apprentice Okoye in goal after leaking 4 record-setting goals in the first leg. Etebo – who clearly struggled as a defensive midfielder – had also retained his place leading to a fan on social media to resort to the Pidgin English curt: ‘this coach no sabi nating!’

If that was bad enough, the German tactician’s in-game substitutions just left many cursing the coach in language too rude for me to reprise. In a must-win encounter (to perpetuate Rohr’s own legacy of always qualifying for tournaments with games to spare [more than anything else]), he brought in a right back and a defensive midfielder in moves that left me both shocked and bewildered in equal measure.

Nigeria will in fact more or less qualify for the 2022 Cameroon Afcon with at least a game to spare but it has more to do with results elsewhere this time around with Benin and Lesotho – in the same group – also playing out a draw.

The results to one side, quite a number of players gave a decent account of themselves in this disappointing encounter. Balogun was as commanding as ever in the execution of his duties while the likes of Chukwueze, Iwobi, Aina, Awaziem and even Okoye helped to keep things tight.

The Leone Stars had their moments but if the Super Eagles weren’t going to win, they were as sure as hell not going to lose either because, make no mistake about it, an upset was very much on the cards. The home team was fired up for this match and the 4 goals they scored in Benin gave them much belief going into this encounter.

But each team had to settle for a 0:0 draw with Sierra Leone perhaps the happier of the two when you consider Nigeria’s pedigree.

Pedigree, is that now all that is left of Rohr’s Super Eagles? Why is it that everything Rohr touches no longer turns to gold? After 3 years, when will his ‘young’ team grow into maturity? Whatever happened to qualifying for tournaments with games to spare (convincingly)? Whatever happened to score lines like defeating Cameroon 4:0, Argentina 4:2 or Algeria 3:1? Whatever happened to the air of invincibility that surrounded Rohr’s outputs?

Gone, they are all currently gone with the wind. The question on many fans lips now is: ‘when will Rohr be gone too?’

That said, the German tactician still retains the support of a section of Super Eagles fans who still believe that he can deliver the 2022 Afcon trophy for Nigeria and then take the nation all the way to the quarter-finals of the world cup of the same year (which seems like pipe dream to me at this stage).

But even among his faithfuls, it is safe to say that doubts are starting to creep in based on recent uninspiring results.

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