Gernot Rohr tells DW that Cameroon would be worthier AFCON winners than Egypt and that his Nigeria side have a newfound spirit to succeed in future. On the Bundesliga, he says he is not surprised by RB Leipzig’s rise.Nigeria coach Rohr has managed across Africa and so is well-placed to pick a winner in Sunday’s African Nations Cup final. He thinks Cameroon, who have vastly overperformed after some of their top names refused call-ups, deserve it more because Egypt have been too defensive.
“This is a very interesting final, it is difficult to say who will win. They are two teams who play different football,” the 63-year-old told DW in an interview by the beach in Gabon’s capital Libreville. “One team are playing very good collective football and the other team is based on the defensive block, so for the interests of the game it is better that the team who is attacking will win.”
Cameroon, also embroiled in a bonus row with their federation like so many African teams before them, are four-times winners while Egypt and their 44-year-old goalkeeping captain Essam El Hadary are record seven-times champions.
“Here in Central Africa we are close to Cameroon and so I think they will have a lot of people to support them while Egypt has a very good coach, a good strategy but they didn’t do so much for the spectacle. But they are here so anything is possible in the final,” Rohr added.
Missing in Gabon, back on track for the World Cup
Nigeria did not qualify for the tournament in Gabon and Rohr, who previously managed Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso, was drafted in to lead the Super Eagles in August.
They have since won two World Cup 2018 qualifiers and sit top of their group, with Rohr praising his captain John Obi Mikel among others.
“It is an interesting challenge, to have a new team, a young team, to build a team with players who really have the spirit of the country, who want to play, to fight, to give their all, who don’t want to speak about material things, but who are here because they want to play for their country,” Rohr said.
“We have a good captain with experience we have found some defenders to make us stronger at the back and I think the spirit and harmony of the team is very good. But we know the important times come now.”
An eye still on the Bundesliga
Despite living and working for a long time in France before heading for Africa, former Bayern Munich player Rohr has not forgotten his German roots.
“I see all the games. The Bundesliga is always one of the most interesting championships in the world with the most goals, with the most spectators in the stadium, always the stadiums are nice and full. Even a team at the bottom has a fantastic stadium,” he said.
The revelation of the season has been promoted RB Leipzig rising up to second in the table to challenge leaders Bayern for the title. Many pundits have been critical of the Red Bull-backed club, which only came into being in 2009 and counts Red Bull Salzburg and New York Red Bulls as sister sides.
Rohr is not interested in the furor over whether they are a “plastic” club and saw their success coming.
“RB Leipzig are not a surprise for me. I know how they work, like in Salzburg, New York and in other sports. They want to be first everywhere and now they are second in Germany and they play well.
“They are only three points behind Bayern so we have a real big duel between the two teams and it will be interesting for the end of the season.”
Mark Meadows conducted the interview in Libreville, Gabon.