Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr says he is satisfied with the performance of Stoke City new boy Oghenekaro Etebo and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi despite the Super Eagles losing 2-0 to Croatia in their World Cup opener on Saturday.
As for Mikel Obi, the German explained why he resisted playing him as a holding midfielder, a role he thrived in for more than a decade at Chelsea.
”Since I am in Nigeria, Mikel played all the time in this role as offensive midfielder and it was going very well during our qualifiers and the team was built around him,” Rohr told reporters.
”I know that he played before defensive midfield, I know sometimes in China he plays offensive and defensive. When we don’t have the ball, everybody is defensive, when we have the ball everybody is offensive.
”We had Etebo and Ndidi, two good defensive midfielders, they did very well today for the first time together, and Obi Mikel also tried his best.
”It was not easy when you have to play against Modric and Rakitic, when you see the clubs where they are playing and the clubs our players are playing, there’s a big difference.”
When quizzed on the tactical reason for taking off Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi in the 62nd minute, Rohr answered : ”Alex Iwobi did very well during the three-week training camp and deserved to start the game. He had a big work to do defensively against the right-back, he did it very well.
”He did well in his tactical role, and he tried also with some dribbling. It was not his fault that we lost the game.”
Yesterday’s game was the first time Nigeria failed to win an opening match against European opponents at the World Cup.