Incidentally, both sides would meet in the penultimate round of matches this weekend at the Uyo International Stadium in what should be an interesting contest; the Super Eagles had previously thrashed other contenders at the same venue including a 3-1 win against Algeria as well as the 4-0 white-wash of African champions, Cameroon.
“I can't predict the score line against Zambia because it would not be an easy match,” the 64-year-old Rohr who had previously worked in Gabon , Niger, Burkina Faso and Tunisia told CAFOnline.com
“Zambia can be dangerous because they also have a good team; I don't think it would be a 4-0 win for us but the most important thing for us is to win even if it's by one or two goal difference,” added Rohr.
Speaking further, Rohr said the Chipolopolo would not be underrated despite Nigeria’s impressive record against Zambia at international level after winning seven out of past 17 matches plus the 2-1 away win in Ndola last October as well as five drawn and five losses in other encounters.
“I have seen a lot of videos of the Zambian team and I must confess they are a very good side much better than the team we played last October but we are not afraid,” Rohr reassured.“ We only have to give them respect but we won't make the mistake Algeria made by underrating Zambia; they have quick strikers but we shall be ready for them.”
Below is excerpts from the exclusive interview with Rohr as he speaks about the progress of Super Eagles under his watch in one year. Read on.
CAFONLINE.COM: One year after your appointment, how will you assess the progress of Super Eagles? GERNOT ROHR: We started in August 2016 and the mission was to build a young team. Our first game against Tanzania was successful and all along, I wanted a good foundation and that means a very good defence. I also wanted a good mix of experienced and young players. We started the World Cup campaign in October against Zambia in Ndola and the victory gave us a good confidence. In one year, we only lost once (against South Africa in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers ) and we had good result against big teams like Cameroon and Algeria. At the beginning, everybody thought the ticket for the Russia 2018 World Cup in our group was going to be between Cameroon and Algeria but it's now between us and Zambia. It's now in our hands now and we have to ensure we win at home against Zambia so that we can go to Russia; we want everybody to be focussed on this objective and I'm confident because our last two games against Cameroon gave us a lot of optimism.
Algeria and Cameroon are seemingly out of the race to Russia but how much of the Zambian team do you know lately?
I know a lot about the Zambian team especially after watching their exploits in their last two matches against Algeria as well as the impressive evolution of this team since we met last in October. They have also added young players from the squad that won the U-20 AFCON and from the squad that reached the quarter finals at the last FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea, so we are expecting a big match from Zambia in Uyo.
What are you expecting from the Super Eagles against Zambia in Uyo?
We are going to show a good fighting spirit ; we want to go to Russia to show the world that we are very good team with a good fighting spirit. In this game against Zambia, the player would show what they can do defensively and offensively. Our goal is to win the game and there is no doubt about that. It's a good situation for us because even a draw is still okay but we want to win. Zambia must win to have a chance of going to Russia; and I think they are in the same situation like Cameroon who wanted to win in Uyo but we punished them with our counter attacks. We shall see what they want to do but by God's grace, we shall win this game.
What makes you happy as the coach of the Super Eagles now?
I'm happy to be the head of this group of players and in general, everyone has realised that we have a fantastic goal of going to the World Cup in Russia; and everybody is happy being part of the team. It would be great to lead Nigeria to the World Cup in Russia.
You will be 65 next year but how long can you keep on coaching?
Yes, I will be 65 next year but age is just a number. In reality, I feel like I'm 20. What is important is that you are fit in your body and you must have what we called in French 'Joie de vivre' that is the 'joy of living' and in my own case, the opportunity of working with young players is also a guarantee that I can stay young.
What mentality are you imposing on the Super Eagles; is it the French flair or German ruggedness ?
First and foremost, I'm German by birth. I was born by German parents, educated in Germany and my first professional club was Bayern Munich and so I have been educated in this (German) spirit. I came to France later in my life and I've also learnt so much about the French style and attitude especially how to work with young players because they have good academy system. My roots are in Germany where my father was also a coach but both the German and French set up gave me special philosophy to build upon.
HEAD-TO-HEAD:NIGERIA Vs. ZAMBIA
DATE RESULT COMPETITION
1:15-07-1973 Zambia 5-1 Nigeria AFCON Qualifier, Lusaka.
2:29-07-1973 Nigeria 3-2 Zambia AFCON Qualifier Lagos.
3:10-03-1978 Zambia 0-0 Nigeria AFCON , Accra.
4:25-07-1981 Zambia 3-0 Nigeria International friendly, Lusaka.
5:13-03-1982 Nigeria 0-3 Zambia AFCON, Benghazi.
6:10-08-1985 Nigeria 0-0 Zambia AFCON Qualifier, Lagos.
7:18-08-1985 Zambia 1-0 Nigeria AFCON Qualifier, Lusaka.
8:12-03-1990 Nigeria 2-0 Zambia AFCON, Annaba.
9:10-04-1994 Nigeria 2-1 Zambia AFCON Final, Tunis.
10:15-12-1997 Zambia 2-0 Nigeria International friendly, Lusaka.
11:17-12-1997 Zambia 0-0 Nigeria International friendly, Kitwe.
12:13-01-2001 Nigeria 1-0 Zambia AFCON Qualifier, Lagos.
13:24-03-2001 Zambia 1-1Nigeria AFCON Qualifier; Chingola.
14:25-01-2010 Zambia 0-0(4-5pen) Nigeria AFCON Q/ Finals, Lubango .
15:15-11-2011 Nigeria 2-0 Zambia International friendly, Kaduna.
16:25-01-2013 Zambia 1-1 Nigeria AFCON, Nelspruit.
17:09-10-2016 Zambia 1-2 Nigeria World Cup Qualifier,Ndola.