Rohr blames set pieces, not tactics in defeat

Nigeria were punished for their lack of coordination while defending set-pieces and not for their tactics, according to German coach Gernot Rohr.

The Super Eagles lost through an Etebo own goal and a Luka Modric penalty, both coming off mistakes from corner kicks.

However, it was Rohr's choice of tactics that were questioned by both fans and pundits. 

But the German trainer has defended the urge not to revert to a back-three, stating they did well in countering Zlatko Dalic's approach and, however, only missed being 'professional' from set-piece situations.

"I think the organisation was okay. We didn't concede from normal play, we conceded from set-pieces," Rohr said after the game.

"Our system was okay. We cannot play with three when there is only one centre-forward, so we played with four because Croatia had three strikers. What we were missing today was to be more professional on set-pieces. Each game is different, we will see for the next game. We know we can play with three centre-backs but today was not that day.

It was, however, clear that a lethargic team performance left striker Odion Ighalo isolated for long periods up front.

Rohr defended John Mikel Obi Mikel who failed to link effectively with Ighalo.

"We play all the time with Mikel in this role of offensive midfield. It's was going well, we qualified and the team built behind them.

"I know he plays before in defensive midfield, in China he plays offensive and defensive. When we don't have the ball, everyone is defensive. Obi Mikel tried his best, it's not easy when you have to play against Modric and Rakitic when you see the clubs where they play and then the clubs where our players play.

Former Super Eagles midfielder, Jay-Jay Okocha was one of the most vociferous of critics.

He felt that Mikel was not creative enough in the midfield, adding that the position he was fielded did not allow Moses and Iwobi do well in the flanks.

“It was a decent first half but maturity was the edge the Croatian team had over the Nigerian team,” Okocha said on SuperSport.

“The Super Eagles got done by the movements of the Croatian team in their box. The Super Eagles midfielders were not doing their best both in defending and in attack.

“Eagles didn’t get the best out of Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses because the manager was trying to accommodate Mikel Obi in the team.

“The manager didn’t earn his money today. We were not a threat in the first half and I was expecting him to play three at the back, five players in the midfield and two strikers to the team a chance to get back into the game.

“We didn’t have a creative player today,” the former Nigerian playmaker said.

“Mikel has been a good servant to the national team. His best position is playing in front of the defence. We saw what he did playing for Chelsea where he had a glorious career.

“The most creative player in that team is Alex Iwobi but he was played on the flanks. He (Iwobi) can play on the flanks at Arsenal because they had better players in that role like Mesut Ozil.

“The reason why we lost was because we played our best players out of their positions.

“Playing Mikel in that position didn’t help Moses and Iwobi on the flanks.”

Rohr defended Alex Iwobi, saying: "Iwobi deserved to start the game, he had big work to do defensively against the right-back, he did it well, he had to work a lot, perhaps he was missing the energy for his offensive game.

"He did well, it was not his fault we lost the game."

Rohr still harbours hope that Nigeria can qualify from Group D, believing his side can take four points off Iceland and Argentina who drew 1-1 draw.

"It's important to make at least four points to qualify. All is in our hands. Let's be positive and believe we can do it.

"We have the youngest team at the World Cup. Let them learn from this match and do better. We saw Iceland they are a strong team and they can do very well, but we know we can also do better."

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