SUPER Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr is considering resting several key players when his team plays its final group game against Madagascar on Sunday after clinching automatic qualification yesterday with a 1-0 win over Guinea.
At the Alexandria Stadium yesterday, the Eagles secured their second win in the ongoing African Cup of Nations, thanks to a 76th minute goal from Kenneth Omeruo. Coming on the back of a similar lone goal victory over Burundi during the weekend, Nigeria became the first team to qualify for the second round after securing six points from two games, with a match to spare.
With more challenging times ahead, Coach Rohr, whose wife is Madagascan, may be tempted to rest key players in the last group match on Sunday. Nigeria got a very a soft draw in the Nations Cup, as none of her group opponents are real major threats, with Burundi and Madagascar being tournament debutants.
Knowing that expectations will rise one the Eagles enter the knock-out phase, Mr Rohr may be tempted to drop some of his key men against Madagascar to keep them fresh. His most influential players in this tournament so far include Ola Aina, Kenneth Omeruo, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Odion Ighalo.
In the opening match, it took a strike by late substitute Odion Ighalo to rescue the Eagles, while yesterday, it also took a second half header from Omeruo to decide the game. Last year, Mr Rohr led the Eagles to a disappointing group stage ouster at the World Cup, leading some fans to insist that he has to win the Nations Cup to make up for the poor run.
Seeking to deflect the pressure from his players, Mr Rohr has, however, insisted that the Eagles are not the favourites to clinch the title tipping hosts Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal instead. Later today, Madagascar who held Guinea to a 2-2 draw in their opening match, will face Burundi in what has been dubbed battle of debutants at the Alexandria Stadium.