The last time this phrase was used for any Super Eagles coach was under the reign of French tactician, Philippe Omar Troussier as he masterminded Nigeria’s qualification to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.
He was nicknamed the ‘white witch doctor’ due to his tactics and style of approach with the Super Eagles. Not known for playing beautiful football, Troussier is certainly going to get you the maximum point even though he was axed from taking the team to the World Cup.
15 years after, Nigeria seems to have found another new white witch doctor in Gernot Rohr; who has changed the facelift of the senior national with some great and exciting talents. He has made most qualifications look easy for the Super Eagles without the usual permutations that the team is known for once they are in a tight corner.
His gradual progress with the team may be termed as ‘slow and steady’ considering the fact that when he was first appointed as the coach of the Super Eagles by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in 2016, a few doubted his capability of technical and tactical prowess.
Recall that on May 25, 2018, former Super Eagles captain and midfielder, Mikel Obi described Rohr as the man with the magic wand who has turned the team around from a side that was unable to qualify for two Africa Cup of Nations competitions to one that is World Cup-bound in just two years.
“With due respect to the other coaches who I have had the privilege of working under, Gernot Rohr has had the most profound impact on the team. He’s brought a new work ethic, discipline and positive energy, and a new way of doing things professionally.” Mikel said.
Since taking over, Rohr has built a team composed of mostly young players and has also worked with the federation to entice players born abroad and representing other countries in age-group football, to switch their international allegiance to Nigeria.
He also turned around Nigeria’s fortunes, qualifying with ease for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where his team finished third and he became the first Nigerian coach to use all 23 players in the squad.
Critics have pointed to his snobbery of players from the domestic league, as well as perceived lack of tactical game management, but NFF officials have stood by their man.
Most recently, he qualified the team for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations slated for Cameroon with a game to spare and not allowing football-loving Nigerians development hypertension in the process.
The Super Eagles finished the qualifying campaign as one of only four unbeaten sides, chalking up 14 points — only Tunisia, with 16 points, did better — and it is their best points tally in the final group phase of qualifying since the 2008 series when Berti Vogts team’ hit 15 points from five wins and one loss.
It is also the second consecutive major tournament qualifying series, after the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, in which Rohr’s team has been unbeaten on the field.
With the team getting set for the kick start of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, where Nigeria has been pitted alongside, Liberia, Central Africa Republic, and Cape Verde, it is certain that Rohr, who may have earned the toga as Nigeria’s new white witch doctor will not only qualify the team for the Mundial but will go ahead and win the 2022 AFCON title. Albeit, only time will tell.
By Augustine Akhilomen
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