Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has commended his team for putting their row over unpaid bonuses with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) behind them to become the first team to secure qualification to the knockout stage in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations holding in Egypt.
Nigeria defeated Guinea 1-0 at the Alexandria Stadium courtesy of Kenneth Omeruo’s 73rd-minute header from a Moses Simon corner kick to move to six points in Group B, five points more than Wednesday’s opponents Guinea and Madagascar who take on bottom side Burundi in the late kick-off.
The buildup to the game had been overshadowed by an ugly row over pay with players boycotting Tuesday’s pre-match press conference and even threatening to boycott training if a satisfactory arrangement wasn’t reached with the Federation.
They, however, turned up for training forty-five minutes later than the scheduled time after team captain John Obi Mikel reportedly prevailed on the players.
And following the victory over the Syli Nationale played under scorching conditions, Rohr commended his players for not only coping with the heat which he said was responsible for Nigeria’s slow start, but for also being professional enough to put the “special day” they had on Tuesday to the background in the quest for the victory.
“All the games that start at 3pm are very difficult for the players so really congratulations to the players, they did a big game in these conditions. It was so hot and was not easy so we started slowly, also, because we knew that Guinea has a good team, a good organization,” Rohr said in response to why the Super Eagles seem always to struggle in the first half.
Nigeria’s coach made five changes to the side that beat Burundi 1-0 in the AFCON Group B opener and declared himself satisfied with the players who came considering what he said were the “special” circumstances with preparing the players for the match given the row they had with the NFF over unpaid wages.
Rohr declared himself particularly delighted with Omeruo’s goal which came from Nigeria’s tenth corner kick because according to him, the team had focused on scoring from set-pieces during their recent training sessions.
“We changed five starting players this time but the spirit was the same. It was not easy to prepare this match because yesterday was a special day, but finally the professionalism of my players was here and I think in the second half with the passion we could make a difference on the corner kick.
“We are happy to score from a corner kick because we worked on it a lot from the training and I’m also very satisfied with the five players who started this time and the spirit was the same.”
With Nigeria already through to the knock out stages and needing just a draw to top the group, Rohr said that even though he’s delighted to go through at the earliest chance, his team which he said had no new injures, would still look to win their final game against Madagascar on Sunday. He also appeared to appeal to the NFF to ensure they honour the agreements reached with the players on Tuesday over their unpaid bonuses for the win against Burundi.
“It’s good to know that the next game against Madagascar we are already qualified but we play all the time to win our games and no injuries in my team it is very important and I hope that the new things that have been decided yesterday will be done so everybody can focus on the next game.”