Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has said he cannot promise that the team will win the Cameroon 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria are on the cusp of sealing qualification for the tournament after their absence from the last two editions of the competition in 2015 and 2017.
The Eagles currently sit atop Group E with nine points after four matches and will be away at second-placed South Africa in Johannesburg on November 17.
A victory for the Eagles in the match will seal their passage to the tournament, which holds from June 15 to July 13, 2019. Only the top two teams in the group will qualify for the first-ever 24-nation tournament.
However, Rohr, who spoke on Supersports during the week, said the team were working hard for their next match but said he could not promise that he will lead the team to their fifth continental title in Cameroon.
“We are working very hard to make sure that we get the necessary points in our next match in South Africa. We know that the match will not be easy but we are working well to make sure our players are in good conditions before the match,” he said.
“We want to make sure that we don’t lose the match just like what happened in our first match. We know that a good result in the match will put us at ease before the visit of Seychelles in our last match at home. We want to finish top of the group.
“For the AFCON, we are determined to ensure that we qualify because we know that for two editions, Nigeria were not there . The fact that we didn’t qualify from the group stage at the World Cup in Russia has been one of the factors that is driving the team because we know that Nigerians were not happy after we couldn’t get to the second round.
“But I cannot promise that we will win the tournament in Cameroon. We want to win it but it will be too early to make promises. Our attitude as a team has been to be modest and take each match as it comes. We also don’t underrate any opponent we play against. This is a young team and they are hungry for success. We have a good professional philosophy and we want to go as far as possible in any competition but we are not making any promises.”
The former Burkina Faso coach said he would continue to explore the possibility of playing Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi in the central midfield role.
Iwobi was instrumental in Nigeria’s victories in their qualifying double-headers against Libya in Uyo and Sfax as he created chances for striker Odion Ighalo as well as wingers Ahmed Musa and Samuel Kalu.
The former Bordeaux manager said, “Iwobi has played very well in the play-making role. We saw him when he played in the role in the friendly against England in London. We also saw him do well in the role against Libya.
“He plays more than the play – making role. He distributes the ball well and also plays for the team. I am concerned about what he does with the ball and what he does off the ball – and he has impressed in these areas. He works very well for the team and we are impressed with him. But we have to conserve what he is going on well for the team.”
Meanwhile, Rohr is hoping that Ademola Lookman will switch allegiance to represent the Eagles.
The 21-year-old was impressive on loan with German Bundesliga side RB Leipzig last season though he has struggled for game time since he joined Everton in 2017 from Charlton Athletic.
The 65-year-old coach is confident that the youngster will add value to his team if he makes the switch.
“He plays for the youth now but we hope he can change his mind and play for us,” Rohr told BBC Sport.
“He’s a player we know can add something to the team. Getting a player to change his national choice is not easy, quick and the process is never so straightforward. First we must be sure he wants to come. And hope to get it cleared by FIFA. Then the most important part is that he brings something new, different and better than we have.
“Every coach wants options, we’ve been lucky to get some players and if we get him, Lukman will give us more options. But we have to be careful about how we go about this because Nigeria have some good players at home and playing outside.”