ALEXANDRIA – Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has delivered a damning assessment of Victor Osimhen and Henry Onyekuru following Nigeria’s humiliating 2-0 loss to Group B opponents Madagascar at the Alexandria Stadium on Sunday although he maintains that despite the loss, his team still can go all the way in the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Already qualified Nigeria needed a point to win their group but suffered a shocking defeat to the AFCON first-timers who scored either side of half time through Lalaina Nomenjanahary and Carolus Andriamahitsinoro to secure a win that saw Madagascar finish as group winners.
Rohr made five changes to the side that beat Guinea 1-0 last Wednesday in the belief that the team he put out was capable of securing the point required and in explaining why he chose to give tournament debuts to Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Samuel Kalu and John Ogu, the Franco-German said he needed the game to properly assess those players.
However, responding to a question about RSC Charleroi striker Victor Osimhen and Galatasaray forward Henry Onyekuru’s failure to make the team, Rohr implied that both players “attitude” in training showed “that they are not ready for such a big game”.
“We had to see some other players that’s why we made five changes,” Rohr said explaining the changes to the starting lineup against Madagascar.
“We had to see the second goalkeeper [Ikechukwu Ezenwa], we had to see [Samuel] Kalu in the team, we had to see [William] Ekong again. We wanted to see also the returning of Kalu after his problem of health, so, it was also interesting to see John Ogu as you cannot change eleven players, we changed half of the team already which is much of changing.
“And of course, we would like to see other players but sometimes the attitude of the players in the training sessions or the general attitude show us they are not ready for such a big game but it was good to see the other players and to give some rest to the important players but you cannot change all the players and still want to win also.”
While the loss to Madagascar might have been embarrassing and could have exposed the Super Eagles to a tougher matchup in the next round, it wasn’t fatal and Rohr said that now that he has a nearly fully fit squad of players at his disposal after weeks of battling injuries and illness, he remains confident of Nigeria’s chances of winning a fourth AFCON title.
“I’m still confident because we have everybody fit now, only Shehu (Abdullahi) perhaps not fit yet,” Rohr announced.
“We have recovered(Jamilu) Collins our left back with a left foot, we will be able to have Ndidi at a good fitness, also Iwobi is very fit, (Sunday) was one more match for Ighalo for ninety minutes and Musa also and I think we will have more rhythm in the offensive department.
“So, now we are waiting for our opponent we don’t know yet and we are preparing very well for the next match and I’m still confident because I have a team which can play much better than they did (on Sunday).”