By Nurudeen Obalola:
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has refused to condemn Mikel Agu after the midfielder’s shocking performance in the 1-0 victory over Zambia in Uyo on Saturday that sealed the Super Eagles’ spot at the Russia 2018 World Cup, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Rohr was however pleased with the contribution of Hull City defender Ola Aina, who made his Nigeria debut as a second-half substitute on Saturday.
Turkey-based Agu came on in the first half for the injured Ogenyi Onazi and put up a performance full of poor touches and misplaced passes that put his teammates under unnecessary pressure.
“It’s not easy to come into such an important game for a young player,” Rohr said in Uyo. “Agu did his best and he’ll learn from the experience. This is not the time to criticise him; we should encourage him.
“He had a difficult game but he will learn.”
Unlike Agu, Aina had an impressive game after replacing the injured left-back Elderson Echiejile.
“Aina did very well and I’m happy for him,” Rohr praised the young defender who is on loan at Hull City from Chelsea.
“When Elderson got injured we felt it was time to give Aina his chance. Aina is a very good young player; he did quite well against Zambia. He defended well and got forward when he had to.
“It’s great to have good young players for the future of the team.”
The Super Eagles became the first African team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after the win over Zambia in their Group B qualifier took the Nigerians’ tally to 13 points from five matches, six more than second-placed Zambia with only a round of matches to go.