Gernot Rohr
German tactician, Gernot Rohr, has certainly made a name for himself within the one year and few months in Nigeria handling the Super Eagles. He did not only qualify the team for the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup but also did it in style.
He has set record as Eagles technical adviser to pick the ticket even before the last round of group qualifier matches and equally secured the ticket without turning Nigerian-soccer fans into emergency mathematicians on permutation table to figure out the possibility of their darling team qualifying.
Speaking to SundaySports in Abuja, Rohr delved into myriad of issues especially on the secret behind the success story, his plans, target for the World Cup, his idle team, the raging controversy over the return of Vincent Enyeama, and essentially what he has enjoyed so much since his arrival to Nigeria. 
What has been the deepest secret behind the World Cup success story?
The only secret behind our success is work and more work. Since I took over in August 2016, we have tried to work hard. We started with list of young players because my target is to build a team comprising young and few experienced players.
We worked together in harmony as a team. The players and staff have no secret. We worked in confidence and the spirit of togetherness really helped us. The players have good feelings and I remember it started during our first game against Tanzania
More importantly, we made a bold statement in the victory we secured against Zambia in the first World Cup qualifier game. As you can see, it was such important victory because it gave us confidence and the right direction. We did not encounter so much difficulty with the result we got. Nobody believed we could defeat Algeria and Cameroon the way we did and qualify even before the last game.
Which of your players impressed you the most during the whole qualifiers?
The most impressive player in the World Cup qualifier matches is certainly Victor Moses. He really has something that other players don’t have. He has creativity, quickness and anticipation which made him a very special player. He really helped us so much and it is always much more difficult for us each time he is not in the game.
Do you have a team that can do well at the World Cup?
Yes, I have a good team now but we must be better than this to do well in Russia next year. We have big task on our hands to make the team better. The players we have now are good players but we must work to make them better by bringing in other good players. I just hope that everybody will be fit during our last game next month.
The match is already two weeks away and we have to do a new teamlist. However, I have requested for friendly matches after the Algeria game to enable me see all these players that could not play in the previous qualifiers. We want to allow them show that they can equally do better than others.
What is your decision on the goalkeeper crisis?
Yes, I have to admit that the goalkeeping department really gave us concern. At a time, Enyeama was out of the team, Carl Ikeme became ill, Akpenyi was injured and we had to make do with our fourth choice goalkeeper.
The brilliant idea from the football federation president to hire a goalkeeper trainer to work more on the goalkeeper we have paid off. We have a right foot goalkeeper coach and a left foot goalkeeper trainer.
The two coaches are complementarily good. We worked so much on Ezenwa and even as a home-based goalkeeper he improved so much. He is really becoming a good goalkeeper and he did well against Cameroon and now Zambia.
He is now a better goalkeeper than before. We will see how we can continue to improve on the department because it is a very sensitive one. I need the help of the technical staff to overcome this problem not only the goalkeeping department but also the entire team. We need to keep tab on everybody to see their progresses.
Are we likely to see Vincent and Ikeme back in the team for the World Cup?
Unfortunately, Vincent is currently injured but we have kept a good communication with him. It is not only me but also other members of the technical department. The most important thing is for him to first find a club in January window to be fit first.
We will look at the best players and there is no other criterion more than having the best players. I also want them to be in high spirit. I want to see the spirit of quality work and respect for the backroom staff.
Are you thinking of using new players to prosecute the last qualifier game against Algeria?
Well, it is a possibility to use the opportunity to see some of the players we have not seen so much of them. We have players like John Ogu, Nwakeme, Ola Aina, among others. It will be good to use the game to look at them very well but we are also conscious of getting good FIFA ranking ahead of the World Cup draws in December 1.
Resting super regular players is a possibility but we are also looking at the possibility of finishing the qualifiers without losing a match. It will be wonderful to play six World Cup qualifier matches without losing any. However, I still want to have the key players in this game because we really want to finish well.
That does not mean we will not look into the possibility of testing new players. We want to keep our fingers crossed because anything can happen within one month. Some may be fit while others may not. The China-based players have matches on November 4 and what it means is that they don’t have two weeks as they had against Cameroon.
I am thinking that the trip will be very long for them and time very short for them to recover for the tie against Algeria, We don’t want to take any risk of injury with the players. It is possible that it will be difficult for the China-based players to be part of the game. 
Are you also considering more options for your defenceline especially Echiejile?
I think we have to look at what happened on the pitch of play. We have to admit that Echiejile did not do badly so far. He did very well against Zambia and Cameroon especially against the best African players at the AFCON.
However, I noticed that everybody is complaining about his position. But if he is fit and playing regularly for his club, he has that position for the moment. The good thing is that we have other players pushing to show us that they can bench him.
What is your target at the World Cup in Russia?
My first goal now is to have a united team not only on the pitch but also off the pitch. When I say united, I mean everybody from the football federation to the backroom staff and every stakeholder going in the same direction.
If we want to do something at the World Cup, we have to prepare very well. We want everybody who wants to be part of the team to show the same solidarity we currently have in the team. We have very good spirit of solidarity in the team.
More importantly, we don’t want the issue of money to be a problem. The issue of bonuses and allowances, which are the usual Africa problem we see during the World Cup competitions, must be avoided.
Such issue would be very bad for our preparation for the tournament. I have told my officials and the federation president that all will be clear before the start of the competition.  Then for the target I set for the team and myself, I would say that it starts by not getting very difficult teams in the group stage during the draws. The second target will be to come out of the group and as we know, Nigeria has played in the round of 16 during the last edition; it will be wonderful playing there too.
But we must come out of the group stage first which will emerge after the draw on December 1. It is also good I emphasise that the most important target is to be united. We want to start early camping.
Which country are you considering for the pre-tournament camping of the team?
For me, it is very important we start the first camping in Abuja. We have to start camping, first in the country to spend the first trench of the budget for the World Cup on the people of Nigeria first. It will be the best and an opportunity to thank everybody and respect the government helping us with camping in the capital territory of the country.
I have requested from the NFF president to start the first camping in Abuja before going to any other place. If it is possible, we want to also play at least a friendly game in Abuja here to enable Nigerians watch the 23 players to make the World Cup teamlist. The match will provide an avenue to say goodbye to the Nigerian soccer-loving fans.
Which teams do you indent to play friendly with ahead of the World Cup?
We will like to play Tunisia because they are very close to picking the World Cup ticket. They just need only one point to qualify. It will be wonderful to play Tunisia at their home. They have good pitches and good weather. We will like to play them after the game against Algeria. We will also try to play second friendly match. 
Did the loss to Bafana Bafana of South Africa dent your record?
We feel so disappointed with the loss to South Africa in Uyo because we have come to be known as a winning team. However, don’t forget that we have the youngest team ever assembled in this country. We have a young team of 23 average ages. They play very well in that match but they forgot to score goals.
Without giving excuses, we did not have our key players during that game which made the game very difficult for the young players. However, everybody learnt from that defeat and it was really a blessing in disguise.
It is not good to loss one game and I don’t personally like it but the good thing is that we still have five matches to play in the Nations Cup qualifiers to make a comeback and at worst finish second in the group.
Our target is to win in Seychelles in our next qualifier match and possibly win against Libya. Winning the next two games will give us six points and take us to the first or at least the second position. So, the defeat by the South Africa will help us to make a better preparation.
What would you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement as a coach was producing world class players like the then young Zidane and many others that passed through me in Bordeaux. I am really very proud of them now. Also, the Cup final in Bordeaux when we beat AC Milan 3-0 after losing 2-0 at their home in the first leg equally inspired me.
In fact the feeling then was like the same fantastic atmosphere we saw in Uyo after picking the World Cup ticket last weekend. However, I want to have another success if we do well in Russia.
After one year in Nigeria, what have you enjoyed most in the country?
I have honestly enjoyed the strong spirit and hospitality of Nigerians. I enjoy Nigerians commending me for the good work we have done on the team. I enjoy that atmosphere of Nigerians appreciating us.
I also enjoyed some soup delicacies especially the ones that are not too spicy. I can specifically say that the one they call edikanekong soup impressed me most. As for the Nigerian ladies, I don’t discuss my affairs with them in the media.
Culled from The Sun News

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Gernot Rohr   German tactician, Gernot Rohr, has certainly made a name for himself within the one year and few months in Nigeria handling the Super Eagles. He did not only qualify the team for the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup but also did it in style.   He has set record as...