CAIRO – Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr says the mental fortitude and fighting spirit his team showed to nick a last minute winner against South Africa in the quarter-final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations “can bring us very far in this competition”.
Nigeria left it late at the Cairo International Stadium before William Troost-Ekong’s header in the 89th minute secured their place in the semifinals after South Africa’s Bongani Zungu VAR given goal in the second half had canceled out Samuel Chukwueze’s first-half opener.
Speaking at the post-match conference, Rohr attempted to explain how his side who had been on top for the vast majority of the game, managed to cede the initiative to a South African team that barely conjured a chance prior to their equaliser.
Nigeria’s manager said although Bafana Bafana had shown desire after the break and eventually scored from a set piece, his side should have been out of site before they conceded the equaliser in the 71st minute.
“In the halftime, we said it is still 0-0, so, we wanted to continue the attack to score goals but they also wanted to come back in the match,” Rohr said.
“They (South Africa) were down 1-0 and decided to go forward. But I think that we had so many opportunities to score and they had almost no chances. So we decided to let them [come out in order] to score the second goal [which] did not come.
“And then we conceded this free-kick and the VAR decision you never know what can happen. We knew that they are good with their head, we tried to mark man to man but we conceded the goal from the set-piece unfortunately for us,” Rohr explained.
Rohr’s team had shown remarkable bottle to come back from a goal down to oust defending champions Cameroon in the last round and that spirit was on display again as Troost-Ekong profited from lax making in the area to nick in Moses Simon’s corner with a minute of regulation time remaining.
And it is this belief and ability to react positively to setbacks that Rohr identified as the most vital characteristic of his side which he believes can take them all the way to a fourth AFCON title.
“What I like in my team is they never give up. They are never down and they keep on to win in the last minute which is fantastic and this spirit can bring us very far in this competition,” Rohr said.