Gernot Rohr

China Acheru

Gernot had been under fire by fans and Nigerian football writers over what they termed the poor play of the Eagles, his team selection, tactics and stubborn nature, but after the win against South Africa, it may be safe to say that the man may just be getting it right with the National Team.

Gernot Rohr had always been rigid with his team selection, not wanting to take chances or experiment and had often been faulted to keep his substitutions too late but against Bafana Bafana, it seemed a different Eagles on display, charges who were not too held back to come out and play football.

Team sheet shocker

Samuel Chukwueze

When the official team sheet was made public one hour to kick off, the debates started on who should have been in or out.

Dropping Aina for returning Jamilu Collins was vintage Gernot Rohr who would stick to what he knows and is comfortable with.

Aina had been a stand in for injured Jamilu Collins and had done pretty well save for the Cameroon game where his output was really poor, but the moment Jamilu Collins returned, he was back to the team.

Collins was very disciplined on the day and held the fort very well. He made forays upfront when he needed to and he also defended well when called to action.

The other talking point was the return of Chukwueze to the starting line up in place of Simon and at that time it was difficult to tell what was in the mind of Rohr.

Against Cameroon, Moses Simon did not exactly cover himself in glory as he did in his first start against Guinea, so many welcomed the return of Chukwueze who dazzled against Burundi, or did he?

Simon is a wide player who helped defensively against Guinea to help Awaziem but maybe, Rohr needed someone who would do more than just being a winger.

Against the Bafana, we saw Chukwueze dazzle on the wings, play as an inverted winger, run through the middle and generally cause the South Africans lots of trouble.

When his goal came, it was straight through the middle because he did not pre-occupy himself with being a wide winger hugging the lines.

Bringing back Samuel Chukwueze to start against South Africa instead of Simon was a top decision made by the coaches that worked on the day.

Typical Nigerian football

After experimenting with formations, especially with a 3-5-2 formation in some games before the AFCON, Gernot Rohr has finally realised that the players Nigeria has, for now, are best suited to play a 4-3-3 to get the best results.

Nigeria had been typically a 4-4-2 or 4-2-4 country, depending on how you want to shape your team but Stephen Keshi near perfected the 4-3-3 at the AFCON in 2013 with Emmanuel Emenike, Brown Ideye and Victor Moses as his starting front men.

Rohr finally let go of the 3-5-2 (which he experimented in some games) to a more traditional 4-3-3 with Ighalo as target man, flanked by Musa and one of Chukwueze, Simon or Kalu and this time Ighalo is not isolated in the middle of the pack like he was in most games the Eagles played pre- AFCON.

The transition against South Africa was also smooth, much better than in previous games.

In Etebo and Ndidi, Nigeria boasts of two of the best CDMs (Central Defensive Midfielders) in Africa today. And when they sit in front of the back two to cut off attacks from the enemy whilst making occasional forays upfront, it is a delight to watch. The attacking edge of both players is also worthy of mention and their synergy makes playing against them almost impossible.

As is usual with most Nigerian National Teams (Super Eagles), the build up is slow from behind as they just knock the balls around, almost looking aimlessly while they search for an opening. Then there is a fast break with either Musa on the left or Chukwueze on the right. This happened time and time again with the Bafana having no answer.

Ahmed Musa ran down his marker time and time again, and with the shape the team played and with Musa, wide on the left, there was also space between him and his marker who did not exactly close up on him. He utilized the space very well.

On the right, Samuel Chukwueze dazzled, spending as much time in the center of the pack as he did on the right flank, an inverted winger he was.

The team was fluid against South Africa- exactly what the fans and football writers wanted. The team may at this point go all the way and win the AFCON but even if they do not, Rohr may have just earned his wages.

Against Algeria on Sunday will be different. But whether the Eagles end up playing the 3rd place match or the final, there is some semblance of a team when they file out to play football these days.

Have your say. We'd love to know what you think.