Victor Moses in, Kelechi Iheanacho out: Gernot Rohr’s finest Super Eagles XI

The German gaffer was in charge of the Nigerian national team for over five years, leading the three-time African champions at the World Cup and the Afcon

After 64 months and 64 matches as head coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr had his contract terminated by the Nigerian Football Federation a year before its expiration.

During his tenure, the former Girondins Bordeaux manager essentially deployed a conservative but uninspiring brand of football.

It proved effective in helping Nigeria qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with a game to spare in each case.

But that sluggish style and lack of swagger ultimately cost him his job despite leading the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2021 Afcon and the playoff round of the 2022 World Cup.

Despite his obvious faults, Rohr did guide the Super Eagles from 67th on the FIFA world ranking when he took over to 36th and from number 13 in Africa to number five. He also guided the team to a bronze medal finish at Egypt 2019.  

And Soccernet highlights the first eleven players crucial to Rohr’s success with the Eagles.

GK: Maduka Okoye

Rohr inherited Carl Ikeme from his predecessor Sunday Oliseh, but leukaemia forced the former Wolves man to retire from football early.

Rohr went from Daniel Akpeyi to Ikechukwu Ezenwa to Francis Uzoho and back to Akpeyi, but he was never convinced of their quality.

But Okoye seemingly rose from nowhere to become the Eagles’ undisputed number one, and the youngster may turn out to be Rohr’s best gift to Nigeria.

DF: Ola Aina, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Jamilu Collins

Despite Kenneth Omeruo’s reputation as an Afcon winner, Rohr often preferred the centre-back pairing of Balogun and Ekong, and he backed the duo through thick and thin.

At fullback, the German tactician deployed Bryan Idowu, Tyronne Ebuehi, Zaidu Sanusi, Shehu Abdullahi, and Chidozie Awaziem at different times.

But Rohr convinced Aina to switch allegiance from England and play at either flank, while none was more dependable than Paderborn’s Collins.

MF: John Mikel Obi, Wilfred Ndidi

Rohr found Mikel Obi’s strong leadership qualities immeasurably valuable on and off the field, with the former Chelsea man crucial to Rohr’s early success until he retired at the end of the 2019 Afcon.

And any of Ogenyi Onazi or Oghenekaro Etebo would have easily slotted beside Mikel at the base of the midfield if Ndidi had not gone on to become one of the best in the world in that position.

FW: Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa

It is almost heartbreaking to see Simon Moses miss out despite being one of Rohr’s favourite and most deployed wingers.

But Rohr built his team around Victor Moses back in the days leading to Russia 2018, and Alex Iwobi made the veteran gaffer too lazy to look for another creative midfielder for the Eagles.

Samuel Kalu and Samuel Chukwueze have paid their dues, but Ahmed Musa keeps this spot as captain and centurion.

ST: Odion Ighalo

Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Simy Nwankwo had their chance but failed to take it. Victor Osimhen may have taken the shine away from many Nigerian strikers in recent times, but Ighalo’s story will probably define Rohr’s era.

The former Watford man led the goalscorer’s chart during the qualifying series of the 2019 Afcon and the tournament proper.

And Rohr was willing to risk his job to bring the Al Shabab striker back to the Eagles months after his retirement at the expense of more in-form forwards.

Ighalo, thus, takes the sole striker spot. 

Rohr’s Best XI (4-2-3-1): Okoye; Aina, Balogun, Ekong, Collins; Mikel, Ndidi; Moses, Iwobi, Musa; Ighalo.

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