WORLD CUP 2018 QUALIFIERS
By Femi Solaja
Super Eagles Franco-German tactician Gernot Rohr, yesterday paid glowing tribute to all the players and officials of the Super Eagles following the team’s qualification to play at next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
The three-time continental champions became the first African country to qualify for the tournament and the second time the team will achieve such feat with one match to play since France ’98 qualifying series when the final group match in Conakry against the Syli Stars of Guinea was just a mere formality..
“I am very excited to be working with this team: a blend of the experienced and the young and ambitious ones. They are a delight to be with at all times, and I believe we can do more in the coming tournaments and matches to come,” he remarked last night.
The Franco-German tactician was engaged early last year at a time the profile of the team was at its lowest after failing to qualify for two consecutive African Cup of Nations tournaments and several coaches the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) planned to engaged turned down the job, to paved way for the Rohr to step in.
“At the beginning of the qualifying series, many people said we were going to be chasing it. But we sat down together and promised ourselves that we would go all out and get the ticket.”
The 64-year old tactician hit the ground as soon as he stepped in despite stringent conditions set for him by the NFF that the team must qualify for the World Cup finals. On record, Rohr has played 10 matches, winning six and losing only one. It was perhaps the first time the senior team will play in qualifying series without the perennial agitation for pay rise.
His victories include a 1-0 defeat of Tanzania in Uyo in September 2016; 2-1 defeat of Zambia in Ndola in October 2016 at the start of the 2018 World Cup race; a 3-1 defeat of Algeria in Uyo in November 2016; a 3-0 defeat of Togo in a friendly match in Paris in June 2017; a 4-0 bashing of Cameroon in Uyo in September 2017 and; a 1-0 defeat of Zambia in Uyo in October 2017, which guaranteed the World Cup ticket.
The only loss was against South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Uyo, at the start of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in June 2017.
“That match was a big wake-up call for us. Now that we have the World Cup ticket, we will go all out for the AFCON ticket and get it.
“When you have a team that has so much self –belief, a lot of things are possible. Age is but a number. I feel young and able and willing to go on working with this group.”
Super Eagles last match in the on-going qualifying series will be against Fennecs of Algeria next month but it’s a mere formality but the NFF has assured Nigerians that the team needed the tie to improve its monthly FIFA ranking to be released before the draw ceremony in December.