Saturday 6 July 2019

/ by Colin Udoh

Gernot Rohr

Nigeria and Cameroon could not be any more different in outlook heading into Saturday’s titanic round of 16 clash at the Alexandria Stadium in Egypt.

Friday’s pre-match press conference represented a marked contrast in styles for both sides on the eve of the game.

Nigeria’s Gernot Rohr, doing his best to stay calm and jocular even as he admitted his job was on the line
“What I have heard is that even if we win the cup, my job is not safe,” he said with the slightest hint of a forced laugh.

Beside him was a serious William Troost-Ekong in a serious-visaged exhortation of his teammates “Any player who needs to be motivated for a game like this does not have the right mentality,” he said.

Contrast with the relaxed mien of Clarence Seedorf, who looked so relaxed as he fielded questions that Cameroon journalists were left bristling. 
“I was even more relaxed than this before I played in the Champions League Finals that I won,” he said in response to a very passionate-sounding Cameroonian journalist who seemed upset to see him so loose. “It is not about being too serious. But about having the right balance between focus and relaxation. We don’t have to remind the players because we have a very intelligent group of players here.”
Goalkeeper Andre Onana, taking a cue from his boss, sat next to him, chuckling and smiling his way through the press conference like an excited kid 
“I’m born ready,” he quipped, his eyes lighting up when asked about how prepared he was for the game.

CRTV Journalist Njie Enow was not amused
“How can he be so relaxed. He is not being serious enough with the players and that concerns me and everyone other Cameroonian here.
“The former coach had a go at Christian Bassogog in public because he was not being serious and that helped him. But Seedorf is almost playing around.”

He would have been thrilled at Rohr’s approach then. The players were sequestered from media and fans in the two days leading up to the match. Rest time was strictly observed, and unlike in the days during the group stages, players were not even allowed to lounge around in the hotel.

One day was allowed for media interaction and interviews, but after that, it was closed house. Open training was restricted to two 15-minute sessions as the team focused on the task at hand.

Troost-Ekong acknowledged that Cameroon would be fired up for the game after their World Cup qualifying loss to Nigeria, but said that the Super Eagles were smarting from that giveaway loss to Madagascar and were looking to make amends

“Nobody was happy about that game. But we know that we have to make up for it in the next one and that is just what it is.”

One thing both teams have in common is their inability to score goals. Both coaches acknowledge the problems
“We have to create chances,” said Rohr. “We have good players who can score. But we have to put them in good position so they can score.”

Seedorf could have been copying from Rohr’s playbook
“It’s not so much about scoring but the things you do before. Our decisions in the last part o the field is something we need to improve. We need to continue as a team too try to create chances. We have the quality to score.”

Captain John Mikel Obi has been ruled out with injury and was seen at Friday’s training with his right need heavily strapped in ice. Shehu Abdullah is also not ready to return yet but Rohr said there was good news about left back Jamilu Collins
“He can play now, but I don’t know if he is ready to start.”

On a final note for Rohr, the lesson of humility that was handed down by Madagascar would play a key role in the approach to Saturday’s game
“It was a lesson of humility for the players, for the coaches and even for the fans too,” he said.

And for Seedorf, it is a game that could go either way

“We have to demonstrate that we are the better team and win. But if Nigeria prove to be the better team and win, we will congratulate them.”

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