By Nnamdi Ezekute in Kaliningrad:
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr is excited to lead Nigeria to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, reports Completesportsnigeria.com.
Rohr, who will be making his coaching debut at the World Cup in Russia, in his pre-match conference here in Kaliningrad on Friday ahead of his side’s opening game against Croatia on Saturday said his side are not the favourites to win the game but they remain ambitious.
“We are excited to be playing at the World Cup in this wonderful country. We had two camps, in very good condition, one in Austria and in Essentuki that is our base camp,” Rohr said.
“The one in Essentuki is very nice, we will want to stay there. They people are very good.
“The challenge is to get out of the group. We play against Croatia for the first time at this level and we are not the favourites.
“If you look at the FIFA rankings we are the lowest ranked team and by that we are supposed to finish last in reference to ranking. That’s why we are hungry, we stay modest but remain ambitious.
“This shows we are ready to get a result tomorrow.
On the facilities in the Kalinigrad Stadium, venue of Saturday’s clash, Rohr said: “The stadium is very nice from the outside, we had a good flight in here and the airport is nice and all seem very ready to host the World Cup.
“Also in Essentuki the facilities are very good as well.”
Rohr also clarified media reports about his comments his players not getting close to Russian ladies during the tournament.
“A journalist asked in Nigeria if players could meet with Russian girls and I replied No!” the German, 64, explained.
“The only one who can meet a Russian girl is the captain because he lives with his wife, a Russian.
“We are here for football. Camp rules are strict. We have discipline and they can only meet their families after the match.”
On his team’s preparation for the game, he said: “We have 23 players in this squad. When we started the preparation three weeks ago. Some of the players had to align to different programmes.
“Some players didn’t play so much in their team and some were tired getting into camp. Everybody is fit now but we have a little problem with Leon Balogun but we will try tonight to see if he will be able to play or not. He is 50-50 at the moment, perhaps till tomorrow.
“Mentally and tactically we know that the Croatian team have good players. We saw them in the finals of UEFA Champions League and in the UEFA Europa League.”
“So big team with stars is better that a team with young qualities.
“They are favourites because they have big players. I think about five of them play in the Italian Serie A, four in the Spanish LaLiga, in big clubs.
“We have players who are not playing in top teams in big leagues and some are not playing regularly but they are young, they will be able to improve in this tournament.”
Rohr also assured that his players will not react to any racial abuse or discrimination when they take on Croatia in Kaliningrad.
“I have had discussions with the players and they won’t react to any racial abuse,” he said. “I participated with UNESCO on this race abuse. The atmosphere when we arrived was very good.
“We played in Krassnodar in one of friendlies against Argentina. I’m sure that the hospitality which we have received will continue.
“We have some Russian nationality in our team, Bryan Idowu, Ahmed Musa who plays for CSKA Moscow and the captain who has a Russian family here too.
“So perhaps we don’t have anything to lose. All the players are not thinking about discrimination.”
He also revealed that his side will be watching the game between Argentina and Iceland which kicks off hours before his team’s game against Croatia.
“We have enough time to watch the match we have a scout there who will bring us reports. We have great and technical players in both teams,” Rohr added.