Russia 2018: Super Eagles let down by Gernot Rohr

Russia 2018: Super Eagles let down by Gernot Rohr

Gernot Rohr presided over a fantastic Africa Zone qualifying series with the Nigeria Super Eagles, picked a squad that was largely devoid of criticisms for Russia, for these, he deserves great credit.

At the main event in Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup – football’s greatest tournament – I submit that Rohr failed his team. He betrayed them even.

When the final whistle went at the St Petersburg stadium in Russia pulling the curtains on the Super Eagles campaign following the defeat to Argentina, the abiding feeling was that of “we really should not have lost this match”.

As an organisation we have covered this band of Super Eagles better than most from the qualifiers through to St Petersburg so the affinity was getting deep hence this defeat and ouster hurt. Badly.

Going into the tournament I wrote here that following the performances throughout their friendlies, the team would be best served playing with 3 centre-backs and wing backs. In that same column I noted that skipper John Mikel Obi will serve the team better by playing in the Defensive Midfield role he excelled at Chelsea.

Against Croatia in the opening game the Super Eagles of Nigeria lined up in a 4-3-3 (or 4-2-3-1) formation with Mikel still in the no 10 role. A dire performance was rewarded with defeat in a match in which they barely laid a glove on the Croatia team offensively.

Asked in the press conference why he went with that formation, Rohr gave a strange answer that Croatia played with two strikers so he needed to have a flat back four (I am paraphrasing his rather confusing answer that night in Kalliningrad).


I asked him why he had persisted with Mikel in the no 10 role and he said that “Mikel was instrumental to how the team played during the qualifiers and we won a lot of matches there”. Clearly Herr Rohr did not expect the standards to to be much higher at the World Cup than during the African qualifiers. We will pretend that the first half against England at Wembley and the defeat to Czech Rep did not happen.

The biggest indictment on him was that against both Iceland and Argentina the team played the 3 CBs formation with wing backs and played much better. The decision to not play to his players’ strengths in that formation in the opening game was a betrayal.

A coach/manager earns his pay and reputation by tough decision made before and during matches. Against Argentina Gernot Rohr let his players down by his decisions as the match wore on. I have watched World Cup matches that I can recall dating back to the 1982 edition, this is by far the poorest Argentina side I have watched at a World Cup.

They still were Argentina and they have a certain Lionel Messi, with the whole world supporting the Barcelona player to get through the group. However, barring the first 25 minutes of the first half the Super Eagles stood toe-to-toe with them and really should not be out of the tournament. Messi was anonymous most of the second-half.

In the 79th minute or thereabouts Argentina brought on Sergio Aguero to join Gonzalo Higuain in attack as Jorge Sampaoli got desperate. A minute later a great chance was fashioned with a cut back finding the Juve striker but he blazed high and over the bar. Not uncharacteristically, to be perfectly honest.

I looked up away to my right to the scoreboard and at the time – it was into the 81st minute. Nigeria had 2 more subs left. I was willing Rohr to get John Ogu into that midfield so we could get more control of the ball as the South Americans were now pushing more men forward.

Bryan Idowu, Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa – to name these three – were tired. 10 minutes plus stoppage time left, scores level, 2 subs left, how on earth does Rohr explain not helping his players out by bringing on fresh legs? Situation was crying out for input and impetus from the bench but unfortunately none was forthcoming.

I have tried many angles an thoughts to understand why no sub came on and I just can’t find any justification for it. There were so many options he could have used. Shehu Abdullahi or Tyronne Ebuehi could have come on to help Moses – with the Chelsea man pushed further up. The earlier option of Ogu or Onazi to bring experience and calm into possession.

I thought it absolutely disgraceful that it seemed that the whole of the Western world were on a mission to get Messi through to the knock-out stages of the world cup. What is even more painful is that feeling that we had it in our hands to knock Argentina out but inept technical input at this the highest of levels cost us.

I lived through the defeat to Italy at Nigeria’s first World Cup excursion in 1994 and it still hurts. This is hurting just as much and I hold Gernot Rohr responsible.


  • Reply Charles June 29, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    You’re right, our players may not be good enough to win the world cup but we had players good enough to finish that Argentine team off.
    I think Simy with his height and body movement would have caused more problems for Otamendi than Ighalo did, I honestly think Simy is a better finisher than Ighalo and we probably would have scored twice with him in that game.
    Why did Ogu go to the world cup without playing a game? He is our only proven goal scorer in the midfield and he helps the defence when necessary.
    If we had a Jose Mourinho on the bench, there’s no way we would have lost that game regardless of the quality we have at our disposal in terms of players.
    Rohr isn’t an intelligent manager to be honest and I think the earlier we call it quits with him, the better for us.

  • Reply Bloodwashed June 28, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    While I love your analysis, I nonetheless think that some of your summations were simplistic to say the least. Football is funny. If we had ‘escaped’ with a draw like most of us wished, we wouldn’t have been complaining in this fashion. Rohr played with the same formation for six successful games during the qualifiers; the Eagles outplayed ALL their opponents, home and away. He made adjustments during friendlies and the World Cup proper; he won some and lost some–that is football. There is a fundamental fact we all are either avoiding or just been plain delusional about—our players are (were) not good enough. That is the bitter truth. We had average players in their early 20s playing at the World Cup for the first time, let’s not flatter ourselves biko. Tyrone just moved from Ado De Hag; Etebo moved from a relegated team to another relegated one; Ekong barely played for his team in the days leading to the World Cup; Ndidi’s first major game post-injury was in the World Cup; Kelechi is overrated; Idowu is not better than the left back in Enyimba; Balogun spent more time on the bench than the pitch at Mainz; Victor Moses lacks emotional intelligence…should I go on? Or you want me to mention the players on the bench? Truth is, we got what we deserved. Let’s take notes, keep Rohr and build for the next world Cup, period! All these talk about ‘world class coach’ is nonsense! No be players world class coach go train? Where are they?

  • Reply Oluwaseun June 28, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Herr Rohr erred.
    These was no need for expansive football after 85mins and he really betrayed my faith in the intelligence and pragmatism of the Germans.
    We were offered a second round berth on the pattern or gold and we just passed on. He has missed the opportunity to be a great national team manager of Nigeria.

    Oliseh come back and finish your job.

    • Reply Ade June 28, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      You were doing very fine until you mentioned Oliseh.

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      • Reply Bloodwashed June 28, 2018 at 11:07 pm

        No be only Oliseh! No be Oliseh put us for this mess in the first place? I submit to you that no Nigerian coach is capable of leading this present Eagles. None. Samson Siasia has not coached any team outside Nigeria; not even a top local club like Enyimba. Amuneke’s adventure in Sudan ended before it started; Eguavoen has become a forefather (no disrespect); Amokachi acts like a baby in adult’s body; etc. who in Nigeria are we going to hand the national team to? Is it Salisu that played ‘where belle face football’ at CHAN? we either stick with Rohr or we get another foreign coach. Nobody should mention Nigerian coach biko!

  • Reply Sola June 28, 2018 at 5:01 am

    ?I remember making virtually these exact statements about Rohr as i watched with Deji Omotoyinbo.
    I also think Ighalo should take some responsibility even if playing him was again ultimately Rohr’s.

  • Reply Olufemi June 27, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Very well said, the question now is; do we stick with Rohr and hope that over the next few years he gets to know the players better and substituting the right player in becomes easier for him? There is a value to stability in the coaching department. Is Rohr just plain bad or did we suffer from his lack of experience in coaching at this level? I for one do not believe we should be in a hurry to make this decision.

  • Reply Abdulquadri Taiwo June 27, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    I concur with you sir. Can’t we get a world class trust worthy coach. It will benefit us more or we should send our coaches on a sound training program. A white will never be so sincere with our progress because a landlord will never wish for anarchy on his own land

  • Reply Pirato June 27, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Well said. Uber for Ruhr’s decision making

  • Reply Adebisi rapheal remilekun June 27, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Firstly Gernot rohr poor in subs, he should have put (d.m)onazi for musa in 83. and john ogu for moses in 85, or echejile for idowu and change the formation to 4 5 1. Secondly Gernot rohr lack of right decision at the right times make super eagles lose the game. Thirdly Gernot roar should explain to nigerian while he drop experiene ezenwa for uzoho.

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  • Reply Igbo Amadi-Obi June 27, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    I cannot agree more.

    If Mr. Rohr meant the things he said about how ours is only a team for Qatar in 4 years, and how it was a learning experience for them, and how Nigerians were not expecting too much from the team, then I understand why he failed to apply himself seriously and properly to the task. Therefore, I dare to say that he is not aligned to our objectives, and so is not the man for the job, going forward.

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  • Reply Rotimi June 27, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better. I concur

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