‘Nigeria have a lot of work ahead of 2019 Afcon’, says Gernot Rohr

Although the gaffer admitted that the Super Eagles have improved since taking charge of the side, he has insisted that there is still much to cover

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has acknowledged that there is ‘a lot of work to do’ before the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

After playing out a 1-1 stalemate with South Africa in Saturday’s qualifying game, the three-time African champions returned to the tournament after missing out on the previous two editions.

The draw helped them to maintain their place at the summit of Group E with 10 points from five games and the 65-year-old, pleased with the improvement of the Super Eagles under him, acknowledged that there is still much to cover.

“We don’t just want to qualify for the Afcon, we want to finish top of our league [table]. We need to win against Seychelles to achieve that,” Rohr said during a media parley with Nigerian sports editors on Friday.

“We still have a lot of work to do. We’ve really improved from the point I took over the Super Eagles. The joy to play good football, defend and score goals has now improved. We make fewer mistakes now as a team.”

Super Eagles captain John Obi Mikel has not featured for the team since leading them at the World Cup in Russia but Rohr insisted that the former Chelsea midfielder is still in his plan.

“That [Samuel] Chukwueze wore the number 10 jersey against Uganda doesn’t translate to being a replacement for Mikel. It’s just a jersey number he used,” he continued.

“Mikel remains in our plans and we all know why he has been out of the team. Mikel Obi will decide if he wants to play at AFCON 2019. He was omitted because of fitness issues, but we will look at his performance before the tournament.

“After the FIFA World Cup in Russia Obi Mikel wanted to take a break. He told me he needed rest and motivation. When he is ready, he will be back. Mikel is a fantastic captain.”

The German tactician also explained why Samuel Kalu has been preferred to Moses Simon in the Super Eagles set-up recently, backing his decision to deploy the Bordeaux winger in a wing-back role against South Africa.

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“I know Kalu Samuel very well. We had a similar player in Simon Moses, but who wasn’t in such a good physical condition,” he added.

"Kalu is good going forward and also a good defender, so we needed to play him in that role.”