SUPER Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has now set his sights on winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after his team made the first step towards qualifying for the tournament with a 2-1 victory over the Republic of Benin yesterday.
In the team’s first qualification match for Cameroon 2021, the Eagles came from a goal down to beat the Squirrels of Benin at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo. On Sunday, they will face the Crocodiles of Lesotho in Maseru and should they win that match, with six points in the bag, the team will be on course for qualification.
Grouped along with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Benin Republic, the Eagles will be hoping to top Group L but they got off to a slow start yesterday with the Squirrels taking the lead after just two minutes. Veteran striker Stephane Sessegnon latched on to a cross from the left and calmly slotted the ball home past Daniel Akpeyi in goal for Nigeria.
After the early setback, however, the Eagles gradually took control of the game but squandered several opportunities to draw level. It was not until a minute before half time that they equalised when fullback Ola Aina was brought down in the penalty area and striker Victor Osimhen stepped up to level things from the spot.
Following the restart, the Eagles began to dominate play and this pressure paid off in the 63rd minute when Samuel Kalu danced into the Beninoise area and thundered the ball home. After that, the Eagles had several chances to increase its lead but squandered them, while Benin tool came close in the dying minutes, striking the underside of the crossbar.
Mr Rohr blamed his players for not taking their goal-scoring chances during the game. He also said Benin Republic have a good team, noting that the Nigerian side had a good game in the second half.
“It will be exciting for me to win the 2021 African Cup of Nations title with Nigeria. That’s my desire and I will be the most excited.
“So, winning today is just the beginning. I can’t be excited until we win the title in 2021,” Mr Rohr added.
He, however, pointed out that the game’s opening goal, scored by the Squirrels’ captain, Sessegnon, in the second minute, was a big shock. According to Mr Rohr, his team needs to be a little more clinical in front of goal to make its dominance count.
Mr Rohr added: “In the second half, we played a very good match, one-touch two-touch and we have good wingers. We had a lot of opportunities and with the changes we made, we did very well. The Super Eagles had a lot of scoring opportunities but they failed to convert all of them.”
Benin coach Michel Dussuyer, admitted that his side was defeated by a superior opponent. He added, however, that the Eagles did not create many opportunities in the first half but gained more confidence in the second half after scoring their penalty.
Mr Dussuyer said: “We played well in the first half, defended well, Nigeria did not create many opportunities but we conceded a penalty just before the half time which gave more confidence to Nigeria in the second half. The second half was very hard for us and we wasted many balls, gave it to Nigeria so many times.
“In the end we tried to recover after conceding and we had an opportunity at the end but it is logical, there’s a difference between Nigeria and Benin. We have fought for as much as we can.”