Super Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr is optimistic of a better performance in Nigeria’s second game of the on-going African Cup of Nations against Guinea. The Eagles struggled to beat Burundi 1-0, but the team attributed the stuttering performance to the sickness suffered by key players just before the opening Group B fixture played at the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Saturday.
The 1-0 victory has placed Nigeria on top of the Group B table as Guinea and Madagascar played out a 2-2 draw in the second game of the group.At the post match conference on Saturday, Rohr said he knew the match against Burundi would be difficult for his players, as half of the team was down with fever.
“We could not make a better performance because the team of Burundi was well organised, especially in the first half and we did not find our rhythm.”I think we worked better in the second half because it took us a long time to come into the match, just as in the first half where we didn’t have opportunities to score. We knew that Burundi was unbeaten during the qualifiers.”
He added: “In our group, I think all the matches will be tough because these teams like home-based teams don’t have anything to lose. Perhaps, they know if they could organise themselves well, they will make it difficult for us.”Our plan was to make them tire with our passes which we missed in the first half. But in the second half, it worked better. Then we had to bring in Musa and Ighalo, who could not come in at the beginning of the match, as they were sick just like Samuel Kalu.
“In our preparation, we had big problems because half of the team had virus. In the last session, we lost two players, Jamiu Collins and Samuel Kalu, and that is why we had to struggle so much to win the game.
“Credit must also go to my colleague (Burundi coach), who did a good job for his side,” he said.On Akpeyi’s performance, Rohr said the goalkeeper was the best during the training sessions, adding that he expects a better performance in the next game.
“The goalkeeper did not concede a goal, which is a good one for him and for the team. He stopped Burundi in the first half from a wonderful opportunity. If you remembered, the Burundi striker was alone and he disturbed him from scoring. In this situation, he was really good.
“Then we know sometimes he also makes mistakes like what happened, especially when he had the ball and he wanted to quickly play it. I didn’t like it but I believe he will try to make it better next time.” Rohr said Akpeyi got the number one shirt because “in the last three weeks, he was really so good during the training sessions and that is why today he is our number goalkeeper.”Nigeria’s next match is against Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium on Wednesday.
Akpeyi was handed the no. 1 shirt ahead of Francis Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa, and he played a crucial role in helping the Super Eagles secure a 1-0 victory on Saturday with key saves.
Despite his heroics between the sticks, Akpeyi nearly cost the three-time African champions a goal with his errors, notably the poor control of a back pass from Ola Aina in the first half.
Following their winning start in Egypt, Rohr said that he is satisfied with the 32-year-old’s overall display and assured that the goalkeeper’s movement will be worked on in training.
“The goalkeeper did not concede a goal which is good for him and for the team, and he stopped a wonderful opportunity in the first half and as you know that the first goal is the most important, so in that situation, he was really very good,” Rohr was quoted as saying by AOI Football .
“Then we know that sometimes there can also be mistakes like what happened when he tried to dribble with the ball. I didn’t like that he did it but we will try to make it better next time.
“But what I saw from him in the last three weeks was really so good in the training sessions that today [Saturday] he was our number 1.”
Nigeria currently lead Group B with three points after their opening game. They are set to face Guinea for their next group fixture at the Alexandria Stadium on Wednesday.