Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr says he is feeling good about the Super Eagles chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia because the players are desperate for success after failing to qualify for the last two Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Under the German, who was appointed in August, the Super Eagles have found new life. They have won their three competitive games so far, starting with a 1:0 home win over Tanzania in a dead rubber AFCON qualifier in September, and crucially, World Cup qualifying wins over Zambia, who they defeated 1:2 away, and Algeria, who they beat 3:1 at home.
Against the odds the three-time African champions are on pole to win the Group of Death as they lead second-placed Cameroon with four points, with four games still to play.
Also critical is the role of the fans, who have in recent times return in their numbers to support the team, and the former Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso coach is delighted with that.
This is a good feeling because we have had three games. We are happy to start with victories in good games. We are happy the public is coming to have a positive look on the Super Eagles team and we know that it is a long way to go to Russia. Another four games and another 12 points to fight for. We are happy but we are humble. Rohr said in a video post on the Nigeria Football Federation’s Twitter page.
The players are hungry because they want to go to the World Cup and they are hungry young players. Many of them do not have titles and they do not have experience in international football. So when you are young, you are always motivated to be successful and I feel this in the team.
To go to Russia for these players is more than a dream. They have missed two AFCONs which is difficult for a big country like Nigeria.
The 63-year-old, who says the win over Tanzania gave the Super Eagles the bounce they needed to turn things around, also gave a view of how he intends to build the team, saying players will now function around a system and philosophy.
What is good now is that the players are changing, but the system and philosophy is remaining. Players can come and go, but the spirit is very important for the future, he added.
Up next for Rohr and his players is a friendly game with Egypt that will involve largely home-based players. The Super Eagles return to competitive action in March when the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying begins