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Is it hopeless to think Nigeria can win the World Cup like Gernot Rohr suggested?

Super Eagles controversial coach Gernot Rohr has come out to state that it will take a miracle for Nigeria to win the Fifa World Cup simply because the country does not have players in the biggest clubs in Europe (among other factors).

The German’s best results have come in qualifying Nigeria for major tournaments (with the now tired-sounding ‘games to spare’) however in the competitions proper, the Super Eagles have come agonisingly short.

Firstly cashing out of the 2018 World Cup at the group stages with passage to the second round within 10 minutes sight and then failing to reach the final of the 2019 Afcon after being outfoxed by an indigenous Algerian coach.

Even in the Fifa rankings – something that had one time been the acquired holy grail of Rohr’s reign – Nigeria have started experiencing a reversal of fortune with a noticeable backward trend in recent times.

As international football resumes next month, the 67 year old tactician revealed in an interview recently that Nigeria is by no means ready to win the World Cup.

"What we have in Nigeria for example, we have our players in Fulham, West Brom, not Bayern Munich, not PSG, not Liverpool and not Manchester City, not Barcelona, not Real Madrid, but these other countries have their players there. So, it would be a miracle if we actually win the World Cup, " Gernot Rohr.

My bone of contention continues to be that journalists aren’t asking the German the right questions.

For me, the question is: with the resources at his disposal and with what he now knows about Nigerian football, can he raise a tournament winning Super Eagles Outfit? Though I am expecting a backlash, I have to say that my answer to this question is that ‘I am not so sure’.

Let’s be true with ourselves and touch on another potent angle, football mal-administration more than most factors is the bane of African football.

It is one thing for the coach to raise a formidable team, it is quite another for the football authorities to provide an enabling environment that will promote success.

To have a chance of winning the world cup, at least 3 factors have to be present: – A competently run football administration – An astute and highly technical and tactically gifted coach aided by a supremely capable coaching team – A team of highly motivated, technically sound, fit, focused and experienced footballers.

As far as I am concerned, the footballers do not necessarily have to be drawn from the best clubs on the planet. They simply have to be technically gifted and hugely experienced. They then need to have a sound coach who can unlock and then harness the huge (and hidden) potentials of these players to punch above their weight at the biggest stage of all.

Cameroon 1990, Nigeria 1994, Senegal 2002 and Ghana 2010: these were all potential world cup finalists. With luck on their side, any of these teams could have at least reached the final or, worst case scenario, semi finals of their respective world cup tournaments.

Could the Super Eagles have won the world cup in 1994? I don’t know but they definitely had it in them to go farther than they actually did. Each of those African countries had it in them to go one level higher: Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana could have reached the semi-finals ( within a touching distance of touching the world cup) whilst Nigeria also had it in them to push towards semi-finals in 1994, 1998 and 2014.

And one variable is distinct: never has any of these African teams been pre-eminently populated by players from the best clubs on the planet.

Actually, I agree with Gernot Rohr when he says there are a lot of factors working against Nigeria’s chances of winning the world cup. Where I disagree is when he says success comes with players drawn from the best leagues in the world.

No, decent (highly motivated) players from decent leagues can ‘push’ to win the World Cup (if the Football Authorities play its own part).

If it is all about playing in top clubs, Nigeria should never have won Spain at the 1998 World Cup with their armada of Uefa Champions League winning players. Neither should Senegal have won World Cup Champions France in 2002 nor Cameroon pulling off an astonishing 1:0 win against Maradona’s Argentina in 1990.

Despite what Gernot Rohr said, I will end by saying I choose to believe former Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Mr Goodluck Jonathan when he said:

“The Super Eagles can, with more hard work, dedication, resilience and further honing of their skills and tactics, fulfill the national dream of being the first African Nation to win the World Cup.”

If nothing, I find the statement by our former President to be comforting and more uplifting than the statement attributed to coach Gernot Rohr.

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