AFCON 2019 QUALIFIER
- Baxter: Bafana Bafana not intimidated by Nigeriaâ€™s stars
Okon Bassey in Uyo
Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, has admitted missing key Nigerian star players like John Mikel Obi, goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, Victor Moses and dependable defender, Leon Balogun ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group E clash with South Africa on Saturday. They are all nursing one form of injury to the other.
Speaking at a media parley at the Ibom Le-Meridien and Golf Resort in Uyo yesterday, the Franco-German gaffer however stressed that he had no choice but adapt to the situation by bringing younger players into the Eagles.
Rohr: “We are without some of our important players in the team. We miss our captain, John Mikel Obi who is injured. We miss our goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme who is injured as well. We will miss a very important defender, Leon Balogun who is not here, so we have to reconstruct the team to beat South Africa.
â€œIt will not be easy to beat them (Bafana Bafana). It is very difficult for me to name my starting 11 from the 24 players in camp because everyone is fit,” observed Rohr while fielding questions on the preparation of the Eagles for the game.
Despite the setback caused by the absence of Mikel and others, Rohr flanked by some of his players insisted heâ€™s not under any pressure.
â€œNobody is telling me how to do my work; I work independently with my assistants. There is no pressure on me to field any players.
â€œWe have good players from Nigeria in this team, I have some fine players. We have good players who can play well for this country. No pressure on me, the team is open to all good Nigerian players,â€ Rohr stressed.
While also fielding questions from reporters, Super Eagles interim Captain, Ogenyi Onazi, said the objective of the team in Uyo is to win the game and subsequent ones and qualify Nigeria for AFCON 2019 in Cameroon as well as the World Cup 2018 in Russia.
He said: â€œWe want to do our own and make sure we win the match on Saturday. Definitely we need the prayers of all Nigerians. We just want to let them know that it is not going to be easy.
â€œWe need your support; you should come out and support us to make sure we get the three points on Saturday,â€ stressed the Turkey based player.
Also speaking, an Akwa United FC player, Alhassan Ibrahim, who is one of the home- based players in the team, said that he was excited selected for the national team.
Ibrahim said that it was an honour for him to be selected to feature for Nigeria at the national level out of the three players invited by the coach.
He noted with pleasure the cooperation he enjoyed from the experienced senior players since he joined Eagles training camp in Corsica and Paris.
Meanwhile, Bafana Bafana of South Africa and their technical crew arrived Uyo yesterday with their Head Coach, Stuart Baxter, warning that his wards are not intimidated by Super Eagles profile in Europe.
Baxter, the players and crew who checked into the Ibom Le-Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort at about 2.07 pm yesterday afternoon said the South African national team players are unfazed by the status of clubs where most of the Super Eagles ply their trades.
According to him, playing as a unit remains more important to him than having individual star footballers stressing that, â€œWe donâ€™t have the big stars but we have a team. Every Africa nation faces the same problem but then the coaches try to balance the stars and others.
â€œWe are not going to be defensive or careful because Nigeria has good players. We should not be intimidated by anybody. David had beaten Goliath but this is not a case of David and Goliath because there is no David and Goliath in this game.
â€œNigeria is the favourite for this game but will South Africa be intimidated? No. Though the Super Eagles have more time to train but that is the way it is.
â€œWe are confident in the way we are approaching the game at the moment but the players know what to do together the job done. The players are hopeful ahead of the game but not intimidated,â€ Baxter emphasized.
Speaking on the effect of the weather on the team, Baxter who is making a return to the team after an eventful first stint said that though humid and warmer, his players have not complained about conditions as they are professionals.
â€œThe weather is okay. South Africans can adapt to the weather. It is warm and a bit humid. I am not used to it but the players are not complaining and they have told me to get used to it,â€ he concluded.
Group A: Sudan v Madagascar
Group E: Libya v Seychelles
Group A: Senegal v Equatorial Guinea
Group B: Malawi v Comoros, Cameroon v Morocco
Group C: Burundi v South Sudan, Mali v Gabon
Group E: Nigeria v South Africa
Group F: Sierra Leone v Kenya
Group G: Democratic Republic of Congo v Congo Brazzaville
Group H: Ivory Coast v Guinea
Group I: Botswana v Mauritania, Burkina Faso v Angola
Group J: Niger v Swaziland
Group L: Tanzania v Lesotho, Cape Verde v Uganda
Group D: Benin v Gambia, Algeria v Togo
Group F: Ghana v Ethiopia
Group G: Zimbabwe v Liberia
Group H: Central African Republic v Rwanda
Group J: Tunisia v Egypt
Group K: Zambia v Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau v Namibia
Note: hosts Cameroon, 12 group winners and three best runners-up after six match-days qualify for 2019 tournament.