Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Former international captain, Christian Chukwu, has warned that undue pressure on coach Gernot Rohr following the loss to South Africa could put Nigeria’s chances of reaching Russia 2018 World Cup on a cliff-hanger.
A nervous Super Eagles suffered their first defeat under the watch of Rohr when they were spanked 2-0 in an African Cup of Nations qualifier last Saturday in Uyo.
The resultant loss, came as a rude shock to the public, as it marked South Africa’s first win over Nigeria in a competitive fixture, since the first meeting between both country in 1992, when a turbo- charged Eagles romped to 4-0 win in Lagos.
Chukwu, who captained the Eagles to first African Cup of Nations win in 1980, warned that instead of dwelling on that unfortunate result, team officials should be reflecting on the forthcoming World Cup 2018 qualifier against Cameroon.
The Eagles, who are topping Group B will host their perennial rivals at home in August.
Chukwu, the General Manager of Rangers International of Enugu, said instead of hanging Rohr, the Franco-German should be allowed to concentrate on the engagement against the Indomitable Lions.
He submitted that the match against Cameroon is winnable as the Eagles have already secured 70 per cent of the result required to berth the World Cup.
“My worry is that we are putting to much pressure on Rohr over the loss to South Africa. We should allow him to concentrate on the Cameroon match which we can win because we are 70-80 per cent within the threshold of qualifying for Russia 2018,” Chukwu warned.
The former national chief coach said Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) must do every thing necessary to ensure the Eagles succeed against one of their most formidable continental rivals.
He said Rohr should be excused for the loss to Bafana Bafana because he was still building a new team and experimenting with new players.
But he, however, kicked against the penchant of building the national team entirely on foreign-based players.
“My opinion is that our national team should not be based outside the country as it is at the moment. I am not in support of inviting as many as 25 players from abroad two days before a fixture. They won’t blend. We have talented and good players at home. We just need to identity them, even the South African team was mainly dominated by local players.
“When Clemens Westerhof called the shot from 1989 to 1994, he used home-based players before some of them left for clubs in Europe,” recalled the former influential captain of Nigeria.
Chukwu said the preference for professional players is responsible for the habitual exodus of half-baked players from the domestic league to leagues in Vietnam, Cyprus, India and other foreign nations, with weak football profile just out og desperation to be called ‘foreign-based players’.