By Nnamdi Ezekute in Kaliningrad:
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has stated that his team still has their destiny in their hands as there is still hope of them qualifying for the round of 16 despite losing to Croatia in their Group D opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Saturday, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The Super Eagles got their campaign off to a losing note after losing 2-0 to Croatia following an own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a second-half penalty converted from Luka Modric.
“We now have to get four points if we want to qualify,” Rohr said in his post-match press conference. “We are only one point behind the second-placed teams (Argentina and Iceland) Nothing is lost, everything is in our hands so we will be positive that we can do it.
“We have the youngest team in the World Cup let them learn from this match and try to do better.
“We saw Iceland’s game against Argentina, they are a very strong team. We can do better than what we did against Croatia.”
Rohr expressed satisfaction with the organisation of the Super Eagles play despite the defeat, promising that they will work on their approach to set plays.
“You are not satisfied when you don’t score. We are satisfied with the organisation of the team defensively but we didn’t have so many opportunities to score. Alex Iwobi did well in the beginning later Ahmed Musa came in to bring his speed to the match and he has the chance to start the next game.
“I think the organisation was okay. It was the first time we played like that in the midfield with (Wilfred) Ndidi who was coming back after a long injury with Etebo and Mikel Obi. So when they played together for the first time it was a bit complicated.
“I think this young players need time. Sometimes it’s naivety when it comes to set pieces but we will work on it.”
Rohr gave reasons why the Super Eagles did not switch to a back three as they did during their friendly games.
“We didn’t concede in normal play, we conceded only two goals from set pieces,” he explained. “This is not a question of tactics or system. Our system was okay, we cannot play with three (at the back) when there is only one centre forward.
“We played with four defenders because there were three Croatian strikers who are very strong. I was satisfied with the organisation of the team but what we missed in the game is being professional from set pieces. Each game is different. We know we can play with three centre backs but it was not a good day (Saturday) to do that.”
When quizzed on why skipper Mikel Obi operated as an offensive midfielder, Rohr said:
“Since I have been in Nigeria for two years now we play Mikel in this role as an offensive midfielder. It was going very well throughout our games and the team was built around him.
“I know he played in a defensive midfield role and I know in China he plays offensive and defensive. When we don’t have the ball everybody is defensive and when we have the ball everyone is offensive. With Etebo and Ndidi, we had two good defensive midfielders who dis very well against Croatia despite playing for the first time together.
“Mikel tried his best but it is not easy when you have to play against (Luka) Modric and (Ivan) Rakitic. When you see the clubs these players play and compare it to where our players play, there is a little difference.”
And on why Alex Iwobi was substituted in the game, Rohr said:”Alex Iwobi did very well in the three weeks we had our training camps and he deserved to start the game. He had a big work to do defensively against right-back (Sime Vrsaljko) who was very offensive.
“He had to work a lot to contain him and was missing the energy for his offensive game. But he did well in his tactical role. He tried also with some dribbles to be dangerous. So he did well. It was not his fault that We lost the game, it was the mistakes we did from the corners that cost us.”