When Gernot Rohr was given his Super Eagles contract extension in May 2020, one of the main targets set before him was to lead the team to a fourth Africa Cup of Nations title in Cameroon.
Rohr has been in charge of the Nigerian national team since August 2016, but the German tactician is yet to deliver any titles in his spell with the Eagles.
By Nigerian standards, he has been given an unusually long rope. Nigerian fans and administrators are very demanding and ruthless with their managers, but they have shown surprising restraint with Rohr.
Indeed, should the German see out his current contract, he will be the longest-serving manager in the nation’s history.
Gernot Rohr has divided opinions during his time with the Eagles. There’s a school of thought that believes he has done well enough to merit an extended stay in the job, while another section thinks he should be doing a lot better with the current squad.
Apart from being criticized for his lack of silverware, he has also endured condemnation for his seemingly conservative tactics and style of play.
To be fair, Rohr has done a pretty decent job with the Super Eagles.
When the German took over in 2016, the national football team was on its knees having shockingly failed to qualify for back-to-back AFCONs. However, Rohr broke that trend and guided the team to the next tournament in Egypt in 2019. Nigeria finished third in Egypt, behind Algeria and Senegal.
Rohr also led Nigeria to the Russia 2018 World Cup, qualifying comfortably from a group that had Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia.
However, a heartbreaking defeat to Argentina in their final group game in Russia stopped the Eagles from moving into the second round of the World Cup. They had lost to Croatia and beaten Iceland in their earlier round-robin matches.
Maybe if some things had been done differently, by the manager and his players, Nigeria might have held on against Argentina and progressed, but in truth, they were always up against it the moment their group opponents were announced.
To get so close in a group that had two-time world champions, Argentina and eventually tournament finalists, Croatia wasn’t total failure.
There have been some bad results along the way, but Nigeria has generally been steady under Rohr.
The general belief is that the time has come for the team to kick on from that steadiness and move on to the next level. To many, that next level is Nations Cup success, as clearly spelt out by the Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick while confirming Rohr’s new contract last May.
Pinnick also tasked the manager to qualify Nigeria for the next World Cup– a series that ends in November 2021. That’s a couple of months before the Nations Cup starts in January 2022.
This is a very pivotal year for Gernot Rohr. It very much feels like the current Eagles boss has hit the last chance saloon.
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Rohr’s team stuttered through the AFCON qualifiers, stumbling to a couple of draws against Sierra Leone, but they eventually secured qualification fairly comfortably in the end, with two matches to spare.
If the Eagles are going to become African champions for a fourth time, they will have to play a lot better than they did during the qualifying series.