It’ll Be Shameful If Eagles Miss Consecutive World Cups ..Benin Republic Coach Rohr

Former Super Eagles coach, Genort Rohr, who led Benin Republic to a shock 2-1 win over the Super Eagles in a 2026 World Cup qualifier, talks about playing against his former team, Benin’s chances of World Cup qualification and more, in this interview

Before the game against Benin Republic, Nigeria were the favoutites, especially as both sides were playing on a neutral ground. How did you turn things around for your team?

You know, it was for us as a team to play very well. And I know the (Nigerian) team and a lot of the boys we had to play, and the big motivation was from the fact that we had to win this game to still dream of the World Cup. You know, a little country like Benin Republic normally might not think of playing at the World Cup, but I told them that ‘all is possible in this group if you win these two games’ which we could not play in Cotonou because of the stadium. We knew it was difficult to play on a neutral ground, but we knew also that it was possible to do something because different arguments were playing for us. First of the arguments is that all the Super Eagles players are in big clubs and very often at the end of the season they are a bit tired mentally and physically. Also, that they’ve not had a little bit of rest and holiday with their families. It’s not easy to motivate the Super Eagles players after such a season when even in winter time, they could not rest because of the AFCON. I think the Benin players were hungrier and fresher physically and mentally. That’s why our chances to win were really realistic and we could prepare a plan. You know we already had 10 days before the time we moved to Abidjan. Also the little advantage we had was the one day more between our first game against Rwanda, unlike Nigeria, who had a difficult game on the other day against South Africa, a day less, plus the travelling.

Nigeria were leading 1-0 and then Benin turned the game in their favour with a 2-1 win. What did you tell your players?

I told my players that even if they conceded the goal, it’s not finished because you know we had a day together, they were able to do the best things you could imagine on the pitch, but sometimes also they can lose concentration, I know sometimes the little weakness of my boys. The opponents (Eagles) believed it was done but it’s not so, even when we conceded the goal, I knew it was still possible to win the game.

How did it feel reuniting with some of your old players in the Super Eagles?

I felt very well, I was so happy to see them again. The day before the match, when they finished their training and we arrived, there was an explosion of joy and some smiling and some emotions meeting one another, everybody, the players, and the staff. It was like we never left each other.

Most analysts believe the group is still open. What do you think are the chances of your team qualifying for the World Cup for the first time?

The group is still open, that’s true and only four points difference with six games to play. It’s possible that in all the last games, there can be a decision in Uyo when we play Nigeria. It could be a final also because the Super Eagles will come back. It was difficult for them without (Victor) Osimhen, (William) Ekong and Moses Simon. It’s a good team Finidi (George) has and perhaps missing the very best players and Osimhen also, he can have some explanations for the defeat.

Three points from four games out of a possible 12 points, what do you think are the problems of the Super Eagles?

I think it’s a problem of lack of concentration, sometimes defensively. Personally, I was happy to see (Alex) Iwobi and (Samuel) Chukwueze go out of the pitch because they were the two most dangerous players. The players who came in were also good. Sometimes you know the coach is doing the best but I think it’s not working, that can happen. The Benin Republic team is very young and fresh like I told you, a little bit like Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup; we had the youngest team in the world with no big profile players, but we have a very good right-back against (Ademola) Lookman and he did so well at 19. He was groomed in a Lagos academy and we have (Junior) Olaitan, the left winger who is from Lagos. Tosin Aiyegun is also from Nigeria, it’s just like a derby where you have different situations giving motivation to the players.

How do you fancy the qualification chances of teams in Group C?

South Africa are number one, we have to be realistic. Number two can still be Nigeria if they all come together in good spirit with all the players highly motivated. They have to beat Lesotho, they can beat Rwanda, they can beat Zimbabwe, they should beat all these teams. And at home, they can beat Benin, but I think we also can beat Nigeria again. So, if they win these four matches, you know, its 12 points. And if they beat South Africa, I think they can still do it. But they have to beat South Africa in South Africa, which will not be easy. And so, for me, Benin also has a little chance, because now the confidence is there, and the team is together. We don’t have the substitutes, the bench, like they (Eagles) have. You know, I could do only two changes (against Eagles) because the other boys were not really ready yet to play these very tough games. I think a country like Nigeria, who missed the last World Cup after losing against Ghana, can do better now. The only disappointment for me was missing the 2022 World Cup (with Nigeria), because I was sure that we could do it after finishing first in our group. But they decided to change everything. If they miss another one, for such a football country with the best players in Africa, it would be a little bit shameful. So, I think the players will do everything to go there (World Cup), and also the federation and the staff. But now, of course they must be realistic and say that it’s only three points in four games.

Do you think there’s proper organisation in the Nigeria Football Federation?

I’m not here to criticise the people who gave me the opportunity to work and paid me. Even if they never could do it on time, they tried and so you cannot count on me to criticise now from outside, from another country, neighbouring country. The people have their twists but they are very good people. I still have friends there but some of the people, like everywhere, make some mistakes. You don’t have any country where there are no mistakes and I think there can be better organisation. For example, for such a game, I was surprised that they only arrived Abidjan the day before. 

If you arrive in the last moment like this, only one day before, it’s not too easy. For me, I would ask them to come two days before to such a game, for example, but perhaps they could not. I don’t know, organisational problems, everybody in Africa can do better, must be more professional. Not only Nigeria, you know, we have this problem everywhere. This is one of the things lacking in trying to become better, so you must make progress in the areas of organisation, preparations and the infrastructure. Now they have it (stadium) in Ivory Coast, we don’t have it no more in Cotonu like you see, because we cannot play our home games at home, so it is everywhere, we have problems. But for a country like Nigeria, this should not be the case. They should have the same infrastructure like Ivory Coast or like South Africa or Morocco. It’s a long way to go to get there.

If you got the chance to coach the Eagles again, is it something you’ll grab with your two hands or you reject it?

Despite the friendship I have with most of the boys, despite the good memories, I cannot say that because I’m under contract with Benin. I have a contract until 2026, and I always respect my contracts. Anything can happen in football, all is possible, and you always can find solution, even if there are contracts. But for the moment, all my concentration, all my work is for Benin Republic, and this is a question which is not possible to answer.



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