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Will Gernot Rohr put on his ‘lucky charm’ the blue shirt?

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Will the blue shirt give Gernot Rohr luck today?

BY KUNLE SOLAJA

Those familiar with Super Eagles’ matches in the past five years may have noticed the favourite colour of Nigeria’s manager. He puts on a blue shirt, which is believed to be his ‘lucky charm.

In most instances he put on the shirt, his team his team often win. Apart from his target of guiding the Super Eagles to the World Cup, he will also be targeting assailing the height that Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof took the team to.

Last month he achieved the longest tenure, both singular and multiple.

On Sunday 15 August 2021, it was 32 years since Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof was signed as the Super Eagles’ head coach.

He went on to spend 1,787 days on the saddle till he walked away on 6 July 1994.

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He was therefore Nigeria’s coach for four years, 10 months and 22 days, the longest ever until the beginning of this month.  

The pendulum on longevity in the service to the Super Eagles has now shifted to the man currently on the saddle – Gernot Rohr who is now the longest serving Nigerian coach.

Employed on 5 August 2016, Rohr has now spent 1,853 days (five years and 18 days) on the saddle – 65 days more than that of Westerhof.

Both coaches qualified Nigeria for the World Cup finals, taking Nigeria to World Cup finals in the territories of the two world’s super powers.

While Westerhof took Nigeria to the West at USA ‘94, Rohr guarded the Super Eagles to the opposite direction,  taking Nigeria to the East – Russia 2018.

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Rohr can take a step further by taking Nigeria to the World Cup in Asia – Qatar 2022.

Algeria also posed common denominator for both as their respective World Cup qualifying matches were away duels against Algeria.

Coincidentally, on-field results of the matches were 1-1, with Nigeria scoring first.

  as Westerhof took Nigeria to the USA -94 while Rohr did the same by taking Nigeria to Russia 2018.

Incidentally, both World Cup editions were hosted by  the political super powers – USA and Russia. In Westerhof’s four years, 10 months and 22 days as Nigeria’s manager, the team played 52 matches, won 27, drew 13 and lost 12.

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Apart from the qualification for World Cup, Westerhof’s teams made it to the podium at the Africa Cup of Nations three times, winning in 1994 and getting the second and third places in 1990 and 1992.

As at this Friday 3 September  2021, Rohr’s  1,853 days (five years and eight days) have seen him taking Nigeria to the third place of the Africa Cup of Nations at Egypt 2019 and will be hoping for an improved achievement in the next edition.

He is under contract till 31 December 2022 – a period covering till the end of Qatar 2022. If he qualifies the Super Eagles, he becomes the first coach to qualify the team to two World Cup editions and consecutively too.

His score card so far read: 48 matches as against Westerhof’s 52. Out of the 48 matches, Nigeria under Rohr won 22, drew 13 and lost 13 including the 4-0 loss to Mexico in which he was drafted as a last minute replacement to Austin Eguavoen.

Prosecution of friendly matches dents Rohr’s record as his team won just three out of 18 since he became Nigeria’s manager in August 2016. In 30 competitive matches, his Super Eagles won 19, drew six and lost five.

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Overall, Rohr trails Amodu Shuaibu and Clemens Westerhof in the number of matches Nigeria played.

In the four spells of Shuabu as Nigeria’s manager (1994-97, 1999, 2001/02, 2008-2010) Nigeria played 53 matches, one more than Westerhof grossed.

With just five matches short of the record of Shuaibu, Rohr will most likely overtake him and Westerhof by the time the Super Eagles play their World Cup qualifying matches and the group games of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon next January.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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