The German has often sought refuge from criticism by pointing to the youth and inexperience of his team.
When Gernot Rohr took over in 2016, Nigeria had just won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, and also had exciting young stars from the U-20 World Cup though they failed to go far in the tournament. Apart from players at the World Cup, there were other young players who he could rely on.
At the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Nigeria had one of the youngest teams at the tournament. Gernot Rohr succeeded in taking young players to that World Cup and the hope of the NFF and fans was that his young team would be older and more experienced in 2022 at the Qatar World Cup.
Shortly after the Super Eagles lost to Algeria in the semi-final of the African Cup of Nations in 2019, Rohr blamed inexperience for the loss. In a pre-match press conference, Gernot Rohr spoke about his young team.
“We have to work more and we have to learn with this young team. I think sometimes a little bit of experience cost us in the game especially because our midfielders Etebo (Paul) and Ndidi (Wilfred) are very young.
“They need to learn better in terms of communicating and pressing the game. These are lessons that we take home and I am sure we will be better. I started this journey when I was appointed to rebuild with young players and we have come a long way.”
After the 2022 AFCON draws, Gernot Rohr spoke to ESPN and also said that he has a young team.
“We have a young team, but they are doing very well last season and this season also, like Victor Osimhen, who was top scorer in qualification.”
But after 5 years in charge, the Franco-German still talks about his team as being young. A 25-year-old player could be referred to as a young player but that description would change after four years when he becomes 29.
The team’s famous “Oyinbo Wall” is ageing and the young players of 2017 cannot be said to be that young anymore. Rather than focus on the team’s perceived youthful nature, Rohr should be more concerned about getting the best from the players as the team’s performance has dropped.
One of the hallmarks of a young team is their finesse and enthusiasm during games but that is lacking in Rohr’s team and their game is slow, unlike a young team. He has worked with the team for five years and with most of the same players, so it might be wrong to conclude that his team is still a young team, after such a long time.
Bethel Kalu is a passionate sports writer whose love for writing began as a young boy. He has been writing sports for 7 years has over 500 articles written by him.