Sunshine Stars coach Henry Abiodun hails Gernot Rohr for his bold decisions in Nigeria's victory over Iceland, labelling his German counterpart 'a good listener'.
Two second-half strikes from forward Ahmed Musa revived the Super Eagles' hope towards securing a second round ticket, after their Fifa 2018 World Cup campaign took off in disappointing fashion.
The West Africans were condemned to a defeat by Croatia in their opening fixture, and Rohr came in for heavy criticism particularly with how he set up his team against the Fiery Ones.
However, the tactician switched things up for Friday encounter in Volgograd; reverting to a 3-5-2 formation, which had captain John Obi Mikel orchestrate play from the base of the midfield amongst other notable changes.
The result was an impressive 2-0 win over the Vikings to move Nigeria to the second position, three points adrift of Group D leaders Zlatko Dalic. And Abiodun has hailed the coach's changes, as well as his team's execution.
“The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the list was that Eagles coach [Gernot Rohr] must be a good listener,” Abiodun told Goal .
“He organized the team to play to the strength of the players he took to the World Cup. If you look at what we had against Iceland it was a balanced team. We had the opportunity to switch our style of play at will.
“He gave the skipper of the team, Mikel Obi the opportunity to play behind in the midfield perhaps supporting the attack. We also had Musa in front and he used his speed to our advantage in the second half.
“It was also a plus that we had Iheanacho by his side. He is an intelligent player that could drop from the attack to the midfield when he has the chance to release short passes while not in a counterattack situation. The coach was a good listener.
“There were a lot of criticisms after our loss to Croatia in the first game about his style of play and the positioning of some of his players but we are here where we are now grateful to God that we have the three points. The first half was very low-keyed. We didn’t create so many opportunities.
“The most important thing in today’s game for everyone that understands the game is that we were able to stay focused and disciplined tactically. That has always been my problem with the team. We create lots of gaps and give our opponents leeway to operate especially when we are defending in the previous matches.
“We were very focused and disciplined. If you don’t lose your shape and your structure is kept intact, even when you make mistakes as humans you stand a very good chance of regaining the opportunity back in a short while if you make the necessary adjustment. We showed character in the second half. We knew that we were in a must-win situation and we took the game to them. We thank God that Iceland decided not to respect Nigeria.”
The Owena Whales coach stressed that Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men disrespected the Eagles after they abandoned the ultra-defensive style that worked for them against Argentina for a more direct approach in search of a victory.
“They played Argentina with a lot of respect and they sat back,” Abiodun continued.
“It was the reason why they got all the praises and the accolades from the entire football world after their surprise draw but today they decided to play 50-50 football believing that they can handle us but now I think the coach will be regretting his action.
“They came out against Nigeria and twice they were punished on the counterattack. Both goals came through transition play. We had two great goals from Ahmed Musa just like he did at the last World Cup in Brazil. I am very happy as a Nigerian.
“Iceland missed it in terms of game plan possibly because they used the game against Croatia to judge us. They might have underrated the Super Eagles thinking that they just needed to come out and overrun them.
“If he (Iceland coach Hallgrimsson) had adopted the same game plan he used against Argentina in the game with Nigeria and resort to counterattack probably the game would have been more difficult than this. We won’t have been able to outpace them like we did.”
To qualify, Nigeria will hope for a favourable result when they trade tackles with Argentina in their last group game at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday.