By Akinwale Kasali
With few days to the opening match of the Super Eagles against Croatia at the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia, Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr is optimistic that the national team will do the nation proud by defeating their European opponent in the first match of their group D encounter.
Rohr insists the Super Eagles will be arriving in Russia for the 2018 World Cup to make a bold statement, not as frightened rabbits.
The three-time African champions, who are scheduled to hit Russia on Monday (Today), from their camping ground in Austria, have copped a lot flake for losing their last pre-World Cup friendly match 1-0 against Czech Republic in Austria on Wednesday. The defeat came after they lost 2-1 against England on June 2.
However, Rohr has brushed off the defeats, saying they had made the necessary corrections based on their observations.
“We are okay with the garb of the underdog. But the defeats have done something for us — we have our heads firmly on our shoulders and we are focused,” the German told the Nigeria Football Federation’s official website on Sunday.
“Together, we have reviewed the matches and learnt so many lessons. We will approach the World Cup matches differently.”
The former Gabon manager said the Eagles would be ready for their tournament’s opening fixture against Croatia in Kaliningrad on Saturday, warning the Europeans not to underestimate his team.
The 64-year-old said, “We will take it one match at a time. I love this group because we know how to rise to the occasion together.
“Nigeria will be ready for Croatia.”
Meanwhile, reports on Sunday indicated that Rohr is planning to start versatile Israel-based John Ogu alongside Leicester City star Wilfred Ndidi in the defensive midfield against Croatia.
Turkey-based midfielder Ogenyi Onazi started in the holding positions alongside Ndidi in past matches but his recent below-par performances must be giving Rohr some concern.
Mikel Obi is expected to play in front of the duo with Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi also in line to start. Rohr is said to have since pencilled in new Brighton defender Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong for starting roles.
Tyronne Ebuehi is tipped to start ahead of Shehu Abdullahi in the right back, while the left back position is still a doubt as Uwa Elderson Echiejile is still battling for the position with Bryan Idowu.