As Super Eagles take on reigning African champions Algeria Friday in Austria, Head Coach of the Nigerian national team, Gernot Rohr, has insisted that vengeance is least on his mind against the Fennecs.
Nigerian lost the semi-final of last year’s Africa Cup of Nations to the North Africans who were later crowned champions of the 2019 edition held in Egypt.
Speaking in a Zoom virtual conference yesterday, Rohr insisted that rather than thinking of beating the reigning AFCON champions, “this international window is an opportunity to try out new players and also look at regulars to see how they are faring.
“These are tests for us. The results of these friendlies are not important but what we can take away from them,” stressed Rohr.
The Super Eagles defeated the Fennecs in Uyo and also went ahead to grab a draw in the final game of the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. Although that last match was later awarded to the Algerians following Nigeria’s use of ineligible Shehu Abdullahi, the Fennecs have gone 18 matches unbeaten since then.
“We know this Algeria side have been unbeaten in 18 games since we defeated them in Uyo. They are really progressing. They are perhaps the strongest team in Africa right now. The match will be a real test for Nigeria,” opined the Franco-German gaffer.
Rohr who is in Austria without half his regular starting line up, have eight uncapped players to pick for the matches against the top North African teams.
The fresh faces include; Cyriel Dessers (Genk), Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto), Frank Onyeka (FC Midtjylland), Samson Tijani (TSV Hartberg), Kevin Akpoguma (Hoffenheim), Tobias Lawal (LASK) and Matthew Yakubu (SKF Sered).
“I want to see what the new players have to offer. We have already seen what they can do at training sessions but that is different from true match situations,” the Eagles Manager explained.
Rohr admitted to missing the services of midfielders like Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Joe Aribo. Both Ndidi and Etebo are down with injuries while Aribo is recovering from one.
Nigeria’s free scoring forward, Victor Osimhen is equally absent due to coronavirus protocols in the Italian topflight that has forced the entire Napoli squad into self-isolation after two players and some backroom staff tested positive for the virus.
“Absence of (Victor) Osimhen is a void. He did so well in the last game for the team.
“However, we have to call up Paul (Onuachu), Dessers and Chidera Ejuke who are all doing so well with their clubs. We also have Kelechi Iheanacho who has shown good quality at training and the other strikers like (Ahmed) Musa.”
If there is any area in the Super Eagles that has created so much excitement for Coach Rohr, it is in the goalkeeping section where four young lads are proving their mettle in the Austrian Camp.
In the absence of Francis Uzoho, Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Rohr has in camp, Dele Alampasu, Matthew Yakubu, Maduka Okoye and Tobias Lawal who was not initially invited.
“Tobias was man of the match in LASK’s last game before our camp opened. He has played Under-20 for Austria. The only problem we have with him is that he does not have a Nigerian passport yet, meaning we cannot feature him in the friendlies yet. He has a good future with Nigeria,” Rohr stressed.