The Super Eagles opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with victories over Liberia and Cape Verde, but many Nigerian fans remain unconvinced about the team under manager Gernot Rohr.
Placed in a group with Liberia, Cape Verde and the Central African Republic, the Eagles are expected to win the group at a canter, and move on to the next phase of the African qualifying series without any stress.
Many betting sites in Nigeria have Rohr’s team as odds on favourites to win the group without any hassles.
Nigeria opened with a 2-0 victory over Liberia at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, with Leicester City forward, Kelechi Iheanacho grabbing a brace, while they recorded a 2-1 win against Cape Verde in Praia, benefiting from an own goal from their opponents to get over the line.
While the results were desirable, the performances left a lot more to be desired.
The argument from Rohr will be that results are all that matter, but Nigerian football fans are very demanding. They want more. They want a national team that will entertain like the class of the 90’s.
Under Rohr, Nigeria has been more of a functional team, rather than an entertaining side. The focus has been on substance and results rather than style.
That was the case yet again in the matches against Liberia and Cape Verde.
With spectators back in the stadium for the home game against Liberia, one would have expected the national team to turn on the style and blow away the Lone Star.
Instead, the Eagles laboured for much of the encounter, struggling to open up a very disciplined Liberian team. Both of our goals came via set plays.
The first goal was from a short corner routine, with Iheanacho firing into the near post- the keeper should have done better- while the second goal resulted from a long throw-in. Credit to Iheanacho who did very well to hold off the defender, swivel and find the back of the net.
With a double-header against the Central Africa Republic to come, Nigeria should continue her winning ways, and take this group comfortably.
The main challenge will come when they have to face one of the really big guns in the final stage of the qualifiers.
Gernot Rohr has not been everyone’s cup of tea, but the man does get results more often than not.
Under him, Nigeria successfully navigated a tough 2018 World Cup qualifying group that included Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia, while we reached the semi-finals of the Cup of Nations in Egypt in 2019.
Detractors will argue that he failed to get us beyond the group phase in Russia 2018 and should be doing better than a bronze medal at the AFCON, but things have to be put in proper perspective.
Taking into account the fact that we had disastrously failed to qualify for consecutive AFCONs when Rohr took over, the German tactician will argue that he has stabilized the team and made them a consistent presence in the most important stages in African football.
Rohr seems like a manager that will just about get enough decent results to justify being in a job, without necessarily taking the team to a higher level.
As long as he keeps producing those results, he will get away with the turgid style of football.
But should he falter- perhaps if Nigeria fail to qualify for the World Cup or suffer another semi-final exit at the Cup of Nations- then he may no longer be able to withstand the heat from Nigerian fans.