The Super Eagles were (expectedly?) knocked out of contention for Africa’s top football prize by Algeria in Cairo on Sunday. Opinion has been largely divided about the Franco-German coach: did he do well? Did the team play as well as they could, or we just witnessed sparks where there should have been a raging fire?
So many questions. But one thing we must be clear about: there are three ways a nation, club fans and the team (or Federation and club officials) think about their coach – he is either getting the players to deliver above their perceived capability, delivering results that are below standard, or just chugging along at ‘normal’. That is, the team end up where they are expected. Where does Gernot Rohr belong?
Followers of the English Premiership will remember the Leicester team that were Champions in 2015-16 season, they performed above expectations. The Wolverhampton Wanderers team of last season, the Greece team that won the European Championships and the Madagascar team at the 2019 AFCON, all were extra-ordinary achievers.
On the other hand, every time Jose Mourinho is sacked from a team – the team is deemed to be under-performing; every Argentina team to the World Cup since Lionel Messi emerged have been in the same bracket. Egypt sacked Javier Aguirre and Tanzania got rid of Emmanuel Amuneke, simply because the two countries expected more from those coaches.
The point is: is it possible the Eagles could have done more under Rohr, given what we had going to the Nations Cup? A good coach takes a team of excellent individuals and turns them into a battering ram: Mourinho (at his best), Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone, Djamel Belmadi (Algeria National Team) are few examples of coaches who have done this.
On the other hand, Nicolas Dupuis (Madagascar), Otto Rehaggel (Greece 2004), Herve Renard (Zambia, 2012), Jose Mourinho (with Porto) and the late Stephen Keshi (with the 2013 Super Eagles) are examples of managers who took a collection of average players and turned them into a fearsome unit. Here are a few thoughts I’ve shared on Rohr since he took over the Nigerian job:
“However, some other coaches have also done good work with Super Eagles, but left unceremoniously. Rohr has started well: the World Cup may be his testing ground, but the Nations Cup will be his judgement ground”
“But the attack was a study if you were looking to be amused: individual play, misplaced passes, mishit shots, players colliding with each other, confusion about roles…name it, that game has it. And that has been the issue with the Super Eagles for a while”
“Zambia is an example of what teams at the World Cup will do: research your team and come up with a counter. If the NFF wants the Eagles to go further than they have ever done at the competition, then the team must be tweaked. The Eagles, as they are now, are built for a first round exit”
“Two players based in China, and a player who has not played a game in the Bundesliga, pairing one that plays in Turkey were the keys to dismantling the African Champions. Individual talent is good, but those talents must fit into a team structure”
The NFF boasted that the Eagles will have “the best ever World Cup” before the team departed for Russia, it turned out to be a dream. The Eagles were supposed to be a better unit at the Nations Cup, following a process of ‘growth’ but we saw the same headaches in Egypt like we saw in Rohr’s first game. The Franco-German has not failed, he just has not moved the Eagles forward.