Super Eagles head coach, Gernot Rohr speaks on a number of salient issues concerning his team at the unveiling ceremony of his squad for the crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations clash against Seychelles in Lagos on Friday. ADEBOYE AMOSU was there for Completesportsnigeria. com. Excerpts….
WORLD CUP POST MORTEM
We are happy with our performance at the World Cup even though we didn’t make it beyond the group stage. Everywhere we went after World Cup, people told us, ‘you have a young team, that is full of quality that will do well in future’.
We had a conference in Morocco after the World Cup organised by CAF where we discussed a lot about the performance of African teams and how we can do better in future World Cups. Many people said a lot of positive teams about our team and that we were just unlucky to go out with just few minutes left against Argentina.
NFF CRISIS AFTER WORLD CUP
It is not good to mix football together with politics. This present NFF have done well and I strongly believe they deserve total support.
The Nigerian league has been on break because of the crisis which is not good for the country’s football. It is not good for the CHAN team, not good for the U-23 team who will soon be playing qualifying games and the national teams.
THE CHALLENGE OF QUALIFYING FOR AFCON 2019
We lost our first game against South Africa in June last year and the next game against Seychelles is very important to us. And after that, we will play two back-to-back games against Libya.
Seychelles, I believe, have a very good team, so we have to prepare well to beat them. Then after that, we want to play Saudi Arabia on September 11, which will be a good chance to try some new players.
The game against Seychelles is a crucial one and we won’t have longer time to prepare for it, so there is no real chance to try out new players, but we hope to do that in friendlies. It’s a game we can’t afford to lose.
It is a good thing also that CAF has increased the number of participating teams from 16 to 24, and we hope to come first in our group.
MIKEL’S ABSCENCE AGAINST SEYCHELLES
He called me on phone asking to be exempted from the game as he has just returned from injury and needs time to get himself in proper shape.
As for the claims about us not having a leader in the team due to Mikel’s absence, I don’t think that is right because we have some vice-captains who are ready to step up.
There is Ogenyi Onazi, Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong, all are good leaders ready to step up and fill the void.
CHOICE OF GOALKEEPERS FOR THE GAME AGAINST SEYCHELLES
Francis Uzoho is a good and young quality goalkeeper that we discovered before the World Cup. People have said a lot of positive things about him too. The Croatian, Iceland and Argentine coaches all told us you have a good goalkeeper in Russia.He will play with Elche this season which is a good move for him.
Then, Ikechukwu Ezenwa who was with us in Russia has been training with Enyimba even though the Nigeria Professional Football League is still on break.
We also sticking with Daniel Akpeyi who was also one the three goalkeepers at the World Cup.
Aside that, we are monitoring some young goalkeepers who will be useful for the team in future. There is one who is only 15 years old that Carl Ikeme our former goalkeeper has recommended to us and is monitoring him as well. We trust his judgement because he knows the quality we want and hopefully, we will get to see these young goalkeepers take over from the present ones in future.
There is also Dele Ajiboye, the CHAN goalkeeper who was with us as fourth choice during the preparations for the World Cup.
PLANS FOR CARL IKEME
Our plan is to have him around for the game against Seychelles but that is not going to be possible because of the long hours of travelling down from England to Seychelles but we hope to have him with us in subsequent games.
You know he is still recovering from his sickness and it will not be ideal for him to go through long hours of travelling now.
I have already discussed with the NFF about having him with us as part of the backroom staff and it is something that they have really considered. It is important to have a good plan for him after football.
NEW SUPER EAGLES INVITEES
With Shehu Abdullahi and Tyronne Ebuehi injured, we have the chance to invite some new players. There is a new left-back in the team, Jamilu Collins who plays for SC Paderborn in Germany . The boy is from Kaduna. He played in Slovenia before moving to Germany. We have monitored him very closely and he is a good defender.
Elderson Echiejile who is one of our left-backs is not active for now so we need a new player in that position.
Then, Semi Ajayi, a tall defender who fits into the quality of defenders we are looking for.
Samuel Kalu just joined Bordeaux from Gent in Belgium. He is a good winger who may get to start against Seychelles because Victor Moses has retired and because Moses Simon is injured.
We also have Kelechi Nwakali who is on loan at Porto from Arsenal.
ODION IGHALO CRITICISM
He is a good striker and he has been performing well for his club. Sometimes it is good to answer your critics with a good performance and we hope he is able to do that against Seychelles.
SUPER EAGLES PLAYERS NOT JOINING BIG TEAMS IN EUROPE
I think we have a young team and if you look at the transfers, there have been good moves. Leon Balogun moved to Brighton from Mainz, which is a good move. Troost-Ekong is now with Udinese in Italy, Bryan Idowu too from Amkar Perm to Locomotiv Moscow and Ola Aina who was with Championship club, Hull City last season is now with Torino in Italy.
Then Kenneth Omeruo who joined Leganes in Spain on loan from Chelsea, Etebo who is now with Stoke City in England and Joel Obi from Torino to Chievo Verona.
One could argue that these clubs are among the top teams in Europe compared to where most of these players played last season, it has been a step up for them.
SUPER EAGLES NOT HAVING A PERMANENT HOME GROUND
I don’t think it is something that is ideal. Before the World Cup, we wanted to play at the Abuja Stadium, but it was not possible because the pitch was bad. I think the stadium is good, it’s just the pitch that needs to be put in proper shape.
When I was in Gabon, they played their home games in Libreville, Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou and Niger used their national stadium in Niamey.
I see no reason why we can’t play our home games in Abuja. As we were coming down this morning, I asked Victor Agali why we can’t play at the National Stadium in Lagos, for example.
It’s a good stadium which can be renovated and put into use.