Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has explained why the Super Eagles failed to advance beyond the first round of the 2018 World Cup.
And just as he lamented in St Petersburg immediately after the game against Argentina, Rohr told a South African publication, Soccer Laduma, that the large Argentinean crowd at the game had a huge effect on his players.
In an interview conducted by David Kappel, Rohr remarked that the June 26 encounter with Argentina at Saint Petersburg was a “great game that had everything – technique, tactic, fight and excitement”.
He said, “We needed a bit of time, which has been similar against Croatia and Iceland. The fans inside the stadium were always the 12th man against us. It hindered us a bit in the beginning. But in the second half, we were dominant. Our young team played on the same level as Argentina, who were runners-up four years ago and one of the superpowers in international football.”
The German added that the South Americans also had an experienced bench compared to the young players he paraded at the Russia. Nigeria was barely five minutes to qualifying for the next stage when the Argentineans scored the backbreaking goal to win at 2-1. Rohr also said their opponents had advantage of longer rest than his team.
He said, “We just need to look at the players that can come off the bench, Sergio Aguero for example. It is a sort of luxury and l think we managed to keep up with them, despite having a young learn.
“And that is, for me, something positive. Also, the game against Iceland and the second half against Croatia had many positives. But despite the small negative things, like a hit of naivety and a bit of lack in fitness towards the end of the Argentina game in the last 10 minutes, which I think is based on the one day’s less rest before the match, Argentina had one day more, despite these we ran build on our performance.”
And like the Nigerian federation president, Amaju Pinnick has said, the country has now shifted focus to the 2019 African cup billed for Cameroon.
“And our project is now focused on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations as well as the next World Cup. These are our targets!”