ALEXANDRIA – Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr expects a difficult encounter and says his team will enjoy no physical advantage when they play debutants Madagascar in their final Group B match in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
Madagascar were in action against Burundi on Thursday, a day after Nigeria beat Guinea but speaking at the pre-match conference earlier today, Rohr said an extra day rest would confer no extra advantage on his team ahead of the 5pm encounter at the Alexandria Stadium tomorrow.
“I don’t believe that they are tired because they won the game [against Burundi] and they are a team with good staff,” Rohr said.
“I know them: the physiotherapist, fitness coaches, Nicolas Dupuis is also a very good coach in France so they will be very fit. I saw that the team has an average age of over 29 years, so they have the experience to recover very quickly and they started like us in the same day and we will play tomorrow match which will be very tough against this good team of Madagascar.”
Nigeria are already through to the knockout round after winning both their matches and require just a point to top the group while Madagascar have four points and need a point to ensure progress although they are practically through with Guinea the only team capable of matching their four points with a victory against Burundi tomorrow.
Despite having already qualified, Rohr says Nigeria will take tomorrow’s encounter against a Madagascar side he believes have shown better attacking qualities than the Super Eagles very seriously. Nigeria’s coach believes the Eagles must be very vigilant to guard against the set-piece prowess of tomorrow’s opponents and continue to exhibit the defensive solidity that has seen them yet to concede in Egypt.
“We saw them doing better than us in scoring three goals against teams we only scored two so they were better offensively against them,” Rohr said.
“We had solid performance in our two games we didn’t concede a goal so there will be really an interesting match to see against a team which has a lot of offensive qualities, also they scored some free kicks, some corners and we saw them yesterday, they made a very good match and I think they will be fine.”
“Also, in the group, because the winner will be on the top so it’s a big motivation for us to win this game again even if we know that a draw is enough for us to finish on top but we play to win our games all the time.”
Nigeria’s head coach also revealed that with many players now back to full fitness, he intends to “put everybody under pressure” and would be making a number of changes to the starting lineup against Madagascar.
“I can say yes [there would be changes] because I want to put everybody under pressure to be concerned about the matches,” Rohr said.
“There’s competition in each position now, even in the goalkeeper department, even in the central defence, even for the striker positions and so we will see in the last training tonight which changes we can do you saw that already between the two first matches, we had five changes and its possible there will be changes in the match for tomorrow.”
On the possibility of injured fullbacks Jamilu Collins and Shehu Abdullahi making the team tomorrow, Rohr said Sunday’s encounter would be too soon for the duo but expects them to be ready in time for the Eagles game in the knockout stage. He also added that with their replacements having performed well, there was no need to take a “risk” rushing the players back.
“They are on the good way now, they are making special training sessions with the physical coach and the physio, even this morning and I hope they will be available for the next game not for this one, this one is too short.
“We don’t want to take any risks we have twenty-one players we have enough [and] Awaziem and Ola Aina did very well the job we didn’t concede any goals so there is no reason to take a risk to bring them in tomorrow.”