Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has praised the resilience of his wards after the Super Eagles fought from behind to claim a 2-1 win against the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in their Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup MatchDay 2 tie in Mindelo.
Rohr had to improvise after missing several key first team players largely the UK based who were unavailable due to the UK Government COVID-19 red-alert travel restrictions to the Island country.
Consequently, the German was forced to hand midfielders Innocent Bonke and Kingsley Michael their international debuts as he changed the side that beat Liberia 2-0 on MatchDay 1 in Lagos last Friday.
But in Mindelo, the Super Eages had to bounce back after Victor Osimhen's 29th minute strike cancelled Dylan Tavares 19th minute opener for the hosts while the West Africans eventually ran away with a precious 2-1 win after a bizarre own goal by Kenny Rocha Santos some 14 minutes from time.
"Yes, it was a difficult match because Cape Verde is a very good team and they are used to playing on the synthetic pitch," Rohr admitted after the match. "It was not easy to raise a new team under three days because 10 players were missing, but Nigeria has players all over the world and we demonstrated that today. They were still able to play almost at the same level with the team that played the first game against Liberia."
Victory in Mindelo gave the Super Eagles maximum six points after two rounds of matches as they romped to the top of their Group C. They are closely followed by Liberia with three points after the Lone Star edged Central African Republic 1-0 on Monday in Monrovia. Both Cape Verde and CAR have one point apiece following their opening 1-1 draw in Douala.
"Of course, we are happy to win because it was not easy to come back after we were down 1-0. Though the second goal was unfortunate but it was as a result of our pressing that forced the goalkeeper out," Rohr noted.
The former Bayern Munich defender was also effusive with praises for his new additions to the Super Eagles. "Both Michael and Bonke did well though it was their first game after we lost all our midfielders from the first game. We already had them in our plans. Bonke has been doing well with Malmo in Sweden and they qualified for the Champions League and so he'd been on our scouting list for some time. Also for Kingsley who was also in the starting lineup of Bologna in Italy last week and they both did very well," Rohr added.
Nigeria and Central African Republic will next month engage in a double header as the race towards Qatar 2022 gathers more steam.