Sports

How Rohr’s Ea­gles Can Con­quer Africa in Egypt

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Af­ter miss­ing out on the last two edi­tions, the Su­per Ea­gles of Nige­ria re­turned to the Africa Cup of Na­tions (AFCON) hop­ing to re­claim the sta­tus of African cham­pi­ons.

Twenty-four coun­tries, for the first time in his­tory, would be com­pet­ing for the con­ti­nent’s most pres­ti­gious foot­ball tro­phy from 21 June to 19 July, 2019, in Egypt – the com­pe­ti­tion’s most suc­cess­ful coun­try.

Grouped along­side Guinea, and debu­tants Bu­rundi and Mada­gas­car to play in Borg

El-Arab Sta­dium, Alexan­dria, the Ea­gles are fan­cied by pun­dits to fin­ish top of Group B; but head coach of the side, Ger­not Rohr, is wary of the Barea and The Swal­lows.

The two-top-placed teams in each group of six, as well as the best four-third-placed teams, will qual­ify for the knock-out stages.

“It’s good to see new coun­tries, with the en­thu­si­asm that they can bring to this African Cup of Na­tions,” Rohr told BBC af­ter the draw for the com­pe­ti­tion in Cairo.

He added, “Mada­gas­car (Barea), I know them very well - my wife is from Mada­gas­car.

“There are no easy matches for us, we never un­der­rate any­body. But I hope we can come out of this group and go as far as pos­si­ble.”

“There are no easy matches for us, we never un­der­rate any­body. But I hope we can come out of this group and go as far as pos­si­ble.”

While Rohr may have tac­itly played down hopes of his team win­ning the ti­tle, the Pres­i­dent of the Nige­ria foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion (NFF), Amaju Pin­nick, was ex­plicit in his ex­pec­ta­tion.

“When you have a child and pre­pare him for an exam, your ex­pec­ta­tion is for the child to ex­cel and that is the same ex­pec­ta­tion I have for the Su­per Ea­gles at the up­com­ing Na­tions Cup in Egypt,” Pin­nick said.

“I ex­pect them to go and com­pete for the tro­phy, noth­ing more, noth­ing less.” Pin­nick’s think­ing is not out of place as the Ea­gles are in the top-four lot of high­est ranked African teams. If they pull out all the stops in the Maghreb na­tion, they could emerge as African champs for the fourth time.

But for­mer Nige­ria in­ter­na­tional Sam­son Si­a­sia does not be­lieve the team can win the ti­tle. While com­mend­ing the coach for do­ing a “great job” by build­ing a young side, Si­a­sia, who won the AFCON ti­tle with the Ea­gles in 1994, said: “I don’t think the team is for­mi­da­ble enough to be African cham­pi­ons just yet.”

What then should the NFF and Rohr be do­ing to en­sure that the Nige­rian squad is in the right fet­tle for the tour­na­ment?

“I ex­pect them to go and com­pete for the tro­phy, noth­ing more, noth­ing less.” Amaju Pin­nick, Pres­i­dent of the Nige­ria foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion (NFF)

Ea­gles need qual­ity tune-ups. This, no doubt, helps to im­prove team’s bond­ing. The friendly with Egypt in March was a step in the right di­rec­tion as it was the game in which lit­tle-known Paul Onu­achu caught the fancy of many with a de­light­ful strike. Be­sides the rev­e­la­tion of the Den­mark-based striker, the Nige­rian side played with a lot more fire, zest and pur­pose than they did in their fi­nal 2019 AFCON qual­i­fier against Sey­chelles in As­aba, Delta state.

In ad­di­tion to ad­e­quate prepa­ra­tion for the tour­na­ment, the three-time African cham­pi­ons can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent. Bu­rundi and Mada­gas­car, as debu­tants, have lit­tle or noth­ing to lose. They can cause up­sets. There­fore, Rohr’s men must not hes­i­tate to put their op­po­nents to the sword be­cause the ul­ti­mate fo­cus on the group would be on them. Rohr should also set up his team to ef­fec­tively play the ‘Nige­rian way.’

Tra­di­tion­ally, the Ea­gles op­er­ate from the wings. Lit­tle won­der, they are called ‘Ea­gles.’ Back in the day, when the team was dom­i­nant on the con­ti­nent, they had nat­u­ral left-foot­ers who were al­ways link­ing up with

“Ea­gles need qual­ity tune-ups. This, no doubt, helps to im­prove team’s bond­ing.”

at­tack­ers to find the back of the net.

When the Ea­gles won the AFCON ti­tle in 1980, they had Adokiye Amies­i­maka, who was very good with his left foot, and Se­gun Odeg­bami, who pulled the strings from the right. Sim­i­larly, Em­manuel Amuneke and Finidi Ge­orge, and Vic­tor Moses caused many trou­bles for their op­po­nents as Nige­ria won the ti­tle in 1994 and 2013.

To this end, Rohr should con­sider 19-year-old winger Sa­muel Chuk­wueze since the Ea­gles han­dler has yet to find a play­maker in the mid­dle. The FIFA U-17 World Cup win­ner, who plays for Span­ish side Vil­lar­real, has been Nige­ria’s most in-form player this sea­son, with many be­liev­ing he could be Rohr’s joker in Egypt.

“In ad­di­tion to ad­e­quate prepa­ra­tion for the tour­na­ment, the three-time African cham­pi­ons can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent.”

Photo Credit: Guardian

Photo Credit: Brila.net

Photo Credit: Goal.com

Photo Credit: ESPN

John An­dah is a sports jour­nal­ist and Se­nior As­sis­tant Edi­tor with Con­cise News Global.

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