Rohr: I Need Uyo Fans As The 12th Player For Nigeria Against Algeria
Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, has been working round the clock as he focuses on Nigeria's next Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria in Uyo. In this interview with Completesportsnigeria.com's Abuja Correspindent, RICHARD JIDEAKA, Rohr unveils details of his plans towards leading Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Congratulations coach, it's two wins from two games for you as Super Eagles coach. What is the feeling like?
Rohr: I feel great starting my job as coach of the Super Eagles on a good note, winning two competitive games. The recent win in Zambia gives me the feeling that we are up to something great. It is nice to work with the players and officials of the team. The Nigeria Football Federation has also made my stay so far wonderful. I am enjoying my stay here now
After Zambia comes Algeria next month. How much do you know about the Algerians?
We know them very well because most of the players have been educated in France, played in France, come from the French academy. Some of them played for French junior teams before changing to playing for the Algerian national team. I have seen them play live and I know their setup. Of course, I know the players.
We will know more of the way they played against Cameroon when the video clips and reports get to us. I sent someone to watch the game and I await the details from him. I have also seen the match on television. We shall do an analysis of the video when we get it and then take it from there and we will know much more about them.
Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani are the Algerian team's star men. Will you pay special attention to the two?
There are big players and star men everywhere. In Zambia, we have Kalaba, Mbesuma and others. Perhaps these ones are at a higher level, we know that it will be very difficult to beat the Algerians, but we have confidence now and will be ready for them. We shall not pay special attention to Mahrez or Slimani. Now our team has high spirit and confidence. Collectively, we are not afraid of the Algerian team.
How did you restore the confidence and the feel good spirit in the Super Eagles?
There is no magic about that. I am a positive man and I know the talents are there in Nigeria. They need fatherly guidance to get going. They responded well to invitation to camp and their attitude has been wonderful. There were lots of communication between us and I demanded discipline on and off the field from them. Good ambience and work ethic have also helped in restoring confidence back in the team.
They made sacrifices for one week prior to the game in Zambia. They did not go out, did not see their families, they only worked. I kept them busy after training with videos and meetings. The spirit was good and we took it to Zambia and won. So they know the reward for hard work now, and we hope to continue to improve from there.
Is this spirit of the team good enough to see the Super Eagles grabbing the World Cup ticket ahead of Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia?
Yes, my players want to have the World Cup ticket. The ticket will be difficult, but everybody knows that we have the capacity to come first out of this group, but you know it requires a lot of hard work. We have already three points, I'm sure with 12 points we could be the team coming out of this group. We shall work very, very hard to ensure that we win all three of our home matches to get 12 points.
After the first game, we are on top, and we can say Cameroon did well to get a draw in Algeria and now it is in our hands to beat the Algerians in Uyo. I know that it will be difficult because they also don't want to lose in Uyo. But we want, absolutely, to win this game and remain on top of the group
Should Nigerians expect new players in the Super Eagles for the game against Algeria next month?
Yes, because all the injured players will be ready, you know who the players are. Four of them who missed the Zambian game will return, one of them had family problem, he will come back. There will be some changes and perhaps the local players will be handicapped because they will be on holidays and will find it difficult to have a rhythm. They don't train and they don't play at this period. It will be difficult for local players, but we shall see if we can organise something, may be a training for them to remain in shape. I don't know if I will open camp for them, but it will be pretty difficult for them to meet up now that they are on break.
Does that mean that the overseas-based players who do not play regular football in their respective clubs will not be invited?
It is good for players to play regular football in their respective clubs to keep in shape and have rhythm. The home-based might come to camp first for us to see how they cope before those abroad join. But I might have a few exceptions in inviting players who don't play regularly for their clubs. So I will need players who play every week for their clubs.
That is why Musa Mohammed who had not played even one minute football since after the Tanzania game was benched because he could not measure up and Mikel also has not played for Chelsea trained well and he gave me a good 90 minutes in Zambia. He did well, so he might return for Algeria on November 12. But they must all go and play games in their clubs. I have told them to go and fight for places in their respective clubs.
How will you monitor these players? Will you visit them in Europe?
Of course, we will go to see the players in their clubs, either me or my scouts. So we know who is playing and those who are not playing. The fittest players who prove themselves in their clubs will get invited.
What is your impression of Carl Ikeme's performance against Zambia in Ndola and so far under you as Nigeria coach?
I've known him before now. I have seen him in his club, Wolverhampton Wanderers a second division side in England. I like his approach to the game, his concentration, calmness, attitude to training and games. He is a good goalkeeper and I must commend him for his saves in Ndola. Carl kept us in the game by pulling at least three great saves. He was the man of the match against Zambia. Great guy.
With Carl's performance in goal, do the Super Eagles still need Vincent Enyeama?
Yes, I said it that I wanted Vincent Enyeama to return from retirement and I called him and we spoke with him. He will come back if we qualify for the World Cup. We need very good goalkeepers in the Eagles. We have two local goalkeepers whom I don't know if they will fit in if Carl sustains an injury, so I think we need two big goalkeepers. Of course for this moment, Carl is number one. We cannot change him, he will be number one for the next game.
Is the Super Eagles defence the weak link of your team?
Everybody knew before I arrived here that we need to build a new defence, and unfortunately there were injuries and we had to do two changes in that area of the team. In the game against Tanzania, we had a good defence; we did not concede a goal, they prevented them from scoring.
Leon Balogun got injured playing for his club and Mohammed Musa did not play at all for his club and that was why we made a change and brought in another player. Now we will watch some positions, we will watch what happen at right-back and left-back. We have a strong central defence, so no problem. We shall try and see if the same players will do well in their clubs to come back or we look for new ones.
Ahmed Musa came in as a late substitute in Zambia. Was it your strategy or he was not fit?
Ahmed Musa has not played for Leicester in their last few matches and so we had to watch his sharpness and decided to bring him in the last 20 minutes when Moses Simon was getting tired. That was what we did and he brought in a lot of speed and motivation. He also had one good shot at goal. I hope he will start playing again in Leicester because when he plays there, he can be able to start the next game for us.
Are Iwobi, Iheanacho and Mikel the most important players of your team?
Of course, you have seen what happened. They have scored, they played well, they are young players. I mean Kelechi and Iwobi are very young players who are driven by an experienced player in Mikel.
Our kind of playing is good football, the passing game. Technical football, not so many touches, we like to play directly, collectively bringing in the wings and the full-backs coming forward. They played accordingly in Ndola and I appreciated them very much. We shall try and get better with our style. It is too early to say if I would build the team around these three players.
You have bonded well with your players and home officials. But were you aware that one of the local coaches has yet to get a contract?
We have a strong bond as a team and we work hard to get results. We relate as a family, we try to be friends with the players and officials, and we respect each other. The assistants I brought in know we have to work closely with the Nigerian officials, likewise the other coaches, medical team, coordinator, media man and equipment manager. We did not come here to lecture but to help them grow and get the results for our team. We are one happy family, I am satisfied with the co-operation I am getting from everyone.
On the contract of the Nigerian coach, I want to tell you that the federation president and I went to some places on Tuesday and what I got was positive. I have been assured that in the next few days Salisu Yusuf will sign his contract as chief coach of the Eagles and he would be paid his wages like us. The federation and the minister now have a strong solidarity and this is good for the team to succeed.
My joy now is that the minister and the federation are now working together for good and we need their solidarity to be able to go to the World Cup in Russia. A big country like Nigeria need all the political will and government's strong support to succeed because the talents are there to go to any length.
Can you confirm that the NFF has paid the Super Eagles bonuses and allowances?
Yes, the federation has paid the bonuses for the Tanzania game, including other allowances, as well as other outstandingly dues to the players and officials. They have also assured us that the bonus for the away victory against Zambia will be paid before the next game. We are okay with the federation and we appreciate the efforts of the president.
Do you feel disappointed that Nigeria will not be at the 2017 AFCON in Gabon?
I feel bad but the Super Eagles have been eliminated and there is nothing I can do about it but to focus on the World Cup. We have forgotten about it, but we have the possibility to watch Algeria and Cameroon to know what they do and how they play. We shall also use the period of AFCON to see other players, those we have not seen. You cannot use two games to see everybody. We must always be positive in every negative because in each negative there is the positive side.
After next month's game, the Super Eagles' next match will be in August 2017. What will the team be doing before then?
We look at the FIFA window and try to exploit it to play as many friendly games as possible. We talk to some notable countries in and outside Africa to prepare the Eagles. March and June give us the opportunity that will see the Eagles in action during the FIFA windows.
Your final word to Nigerians….
I want to say a big thank you to Nigerians, especially the Uyo fans, for the warm welcome and support they gave me in the game against Tanzania. I am happy to be working in Nigeria now and I feel like I am already a Nigerian. I hope that when we go back to Uyo, the pitch will be better than the last time and we need the supporters to be the 12th man to beat Algeria. We have to have our people behind us for 90 minutes of the game. We have to cheer our players whether good or bad and make things difficult for the Algerians