Few weeks ago, Gernot Rohr was named head coach of the Super Eagles. The Franco-German is no stranger to African football after previous spells with Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso.
A former player with Bayern Munich, SV Waldhof Mannheim, Kickers Offenbach and Bordeaux, Rohr also has varied experiences coaching clubs in the France, Switzerland and Tunisia.
Speaking exclusively to CAFonline.com ahead of his first competitive outing, against the Taifa Stars of Tanzania in the final fixture of the qualifiers on Saturday at the Akwa Ibom Stadium in Uyo, Rohr was upbeat about the task of turning around the fortunes of the Super Eagles as they bid for a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Below are the excerpts;
Cafonline.com: How are you settling down into what is considered one of the hottest jobs in African football?
Gernot Rohr: Coaching is usually a difficult job not only in Nigeria but everywhere because every team wants to succeed. It’s nothing new but what is new here is that we have really good players and a big motivation after missing out two big competitions (2015 and 2017 AFCON). I think this is going to be a very big motivation in our campaign for the FIFA World Russia 2018 and I believe we can succeed.
You have only worked with the players for few days before the match against Tanzania, what are your expectations on Saturday?
The match on Saturday is important though we are not going to the 2017 AFCON. We must show everybody that the motivation is there. All the players are fighting and giving their best and have to play together in order to prepare for the next important game, which is the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 qualifier against Zambia (in October). The match against Tanzania is therefore an opportunity for me to study how the players can be in a difficult situation because Tanzania is also a good team. I can see how the players are coping with my philosophy. I saw a bit of it during the friendly against Akwa United on Wednesday (Super Eagles won 3-0). I have already seen some few things to build upon against the local team that we played. I already know a bit about the players and we will try to find a good system. This is the only game we have before going to Zambia, so it’s very important to see the best of this team on Saturday.
You spoke about your philosophy; what other things are you going to do to ensure that Nigeria regains its lost glory in Africa?
I want to bring confidence; good organisation; teamwork; quality playing; and everybody behind the team’s interest so that each players play for the team; and it’s possible to live like a family.
What is the difference between a club coach and national team based on your past experiences?
The difference is that the national team job has a bigger responsibility because it is for the whole country but not for a region or city, but comes with the same pressure because you always want to win. At the national team level, you don’t have too many matches to look at the players every time and therefore you must prepare very well at every given opportunity. You have to look at a lot of players in their different clubs and what they are doing in their clubs because you are not going to see them in the national team every day to have better observation on their fitness. Whether national team or at the club level, you want to win and you must have the best players on the pitch; and create a good spirit in the team. So the game is not changing but the work is different.
Nigeria once again won’t be at the AFCON in 2017, what are the chances of your team for the 2018 World Cup in a group that also has Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia?
All the four teams in this group have equal chances of going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. You have a big team in Algeria, ranked Number One in Africa at the moment. Everybody knows Algeria has great players, so it is going to be a big challenge in this group. It is good we are going to Zambia first and don’t forget that Zambia is a big team too because they won the AFCON in Gabon in 2012. They have a big tradition as well. The group is open but I think the motivation of the Nigerian team is very, very high. All the teams in our group want to be at the World Cup in Russia but we have a bigger motivation particularly with the good performance of the Nigeria at the recent Olympic Games in Rio. We don’t have much time honestly, but it is possible to build a very good team.
What are you going to do between now and the first World qualifying match against Zambia in October?
There is no international break between now and the game against Zambia; and that means this weekend’s match against Tanzania is very important for us. We have to monitor the players thereafter at their clubs to know they are okay before we go to Zambia. It will be a real test for the team against Tanzania on Saturday. Tanzania is a good team though they are at the bottom of the group. It is important that we should be able to play well without much pressure. We have a lot of things to do in building the first step to Zambia and we need good preparations. Of course, we want to win and we need all the support to go to the World Cup. We need to see a good image not only on the pitch but in the stands from the fans.