Super Eagles head coach, Gernot Rohr, has played down the hype surrounding Nigeria’s chances of winning a fourth Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title this year.
Rohr will lead Nigeria’s senior national team to the 32nd edition of the competition which kicks off on June 21 in Egypt, with the Super Eagles drawn in Group B alongside West African rivals Guinea as well as Burundi and Madagascar.
And though Nigeria’s national team is expected to challenge for the AFCON title, Rohr said to BBC Sport that such expectation does not align with his philosophy as the team’s aim is to stay humble and not get too excited.
“Our aim at this moment is to stay humble and not get too excited,” the Super Eagles coach told BBC Sport. “To say we have to win the Afcon is not my philosophy because we are a very young team… We have a chance to reach the last four, which for me is already a good result.”
Rohr added: “Already the president (of NFF, Amaju Pinnick) said we must win it, but this is not the ideology. We are only making a return after a period of absence so we have to play with happiness and enthusiasm in Egypt.”
Nigeria’s 23-man squad only has three players from the country’s last appearance in the competition back in 2013 – John Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo – but Rohr remains confident in the ability of the entire team to make the nation proud in Egypt.
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“They did very well in Russia and won hearts, I can tell from the reactions of the fans at home and everywhere I go,” said Rohr. “In defence we have Balogun who is very mature. The captain Mikel is back in midfield. John Ogu is experienced and we already know everything about [Wilfred] Ndidi.”
He also highlighted the need for the team’s attackers to figure out how to play together seamlessly. “Alex Iwobi is young but brings experience in the forwards. Ahmed Musa and Ighalo also have experience. We must find a way to blend them all together.”
The German is expected to finally decide on his starting team for the tournament from the displays of the players in a behind-closed-doors friendly encounter with pre-tournament favourites, Senegal, on June 16 in the Egyptian city of Ismailia, six days before the team’s opening game against Burundi in Alexandria.
And Rohr believes the young average age of the Super Eagles squad to AFCON would bode well for the team. “The youthfulness in the squad is good because the future will be bright. Also they can draw very positive experience from their spirited performance in Russia,” he said.
Do you agree with Rohr’s comments concerning the Super Eagles’ chances of winning a fourth AFCON crown in Egypt later this year? Share your views with us in the comments section.