Football

Rohr insists future is bright for youthful Nigeria

• Says he’s not in a hurry to decide future

Gernot Rohr believes Nigeria will be stronger for their experience at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations after his side suffered a painful, last-gasp defeat to Algeria in the semi-finals.

Nigeria looked to be heading into extra time against a team that required penalties to overcome Ivory Coast just three days earlier, but Riyad Mahrez won the game for Algeria in the 95th minute with a magnificent free-kick.

Coach Rohr said the loss was “tough to digest” for his players but stressed the current crop of Super Eagles had the potential to become “very good” given time.

“Our team is progressing well after the World Cup which wasn’t bad, we’ve started work with a rejuvenated team. This team has a future. I’m still under contract for another year and we’ll see what happens after that,” said the German, whose side was the youngest in Russia last summer.

Nigeria will meet Tunisia on Wednesday in the third-place play-off at Al Salam Stadium, which could see the likes of youngsters Henry Onyekuru, Samuel Kalu and Victor Osimhen given a chance after limited minutes in Egypt.

“We will draw lessons after the third place match. We have a very young team, we’re making progress and perhaps we lacked a bit of clear-sightedness (against Algeria) but we’re moving forward,” continued Rohr.

“We have to work much more. Our midfield is the youngest one. (Wilfred) Ndidi, (Alex) Iwobi and (Peter) Etebo have to learn tactically and they have to make better communication, but I think with time they’ll be very good.”

Rohr praised the resilience shown by his side throughout the tournament, as they responded to a shock loss to Madagascar by toppling defending champions Cameroon and beating South Africa before coming from behind against Algeria.

“I congratulate my players for a big fight against this very good team,” said Rohr. “It was a big fight until the last minute.”

“It was a wonderful match, but we lost it so we are not happy. We scored an own goal which was unlucky but we came back like throughout the tournament when there was something difficult against us. A wonderful free-kick made the difference.”

He added: “The other day we won in the last minute against South Africa, this time we lost. That’s football.”

The former Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso boss also praised the work done by Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi, who took over last year after the Desert Foxes finished bottom of their 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

“The result reflects what we saw on the pitch. The best team won,” said Rohr.

“The match confirms what I said about them making progress. They have made strides both tactically and technically and it’s going to be very tight with Senegal but Algeria have all the weapons to win.”

Gernot Rohr has noted that his Super Eagles team, albeit developmental are still on the path to playing at their very best.

He reiterated his confidence in the team following their 2-1 Africa Cup of Nations semifinal defeat to Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium on Sunday.

Gernot Rohr’s boys were down by a goal in the 40th minute courtesy of an own goal from center back William Troost-Ekong before leading scorer in the AFCON, Odion Ighalo slotted in the equaliser in the 72nd minute.

It was not to be for the Nigerians however, as Riyad Mahrez gave the desert foxes the victory on the stroke of full time.

While speaking in a news conference after the game, Rohr congratulated the Algerians for a good game and applauded the resilience his team had for much of the game.

“I have a young team that will continue to improve and one that will surely get better. We are sad that we lost.

“In my players’ mind, they were already thinking about extra time, but we lost in the last minute to a wonderful free-kick scored by a special player, these things happen in football and i want to congratulate the Algerian team for winning the game and proceeding to the final.”

“We had a good second half and scored a goal from the spot. We have shown strong character by coming back from difficult situation in this tournament and we did the same against Algeria, we have learnt a lot from this experience and will do better in future. This team is young but will get better.”

Nigeria Head Coach Gernot Rohr said the team has now switched focus to Wednesday’s third-place game against Tunisia after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Algeria.

A last minute strike from Riyad Mahrez condemned Nigeria to a defeat and denied the Super Eagles a chance to win a 4th African title.

Rohr has now stated that they have put the loss behind and will now give their all in the losers final so that we won’t go home empty handed.

Rohr Said “Obviously, my players were preparing for extra-time, but that is Football, you cannot always win.”

“The focus is now on the third-place match, we will try our best to bow out of Egypt on a high,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Algeria will lock horns with Senegal in Sunday’s final.

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