• For five minutes we had to wait, goal or no goal, and that was hard for my team — Rohr
• Rohr praised the character of his side, who came back from 2-1 down to beat Cameroon 3-2 in the previous round and grabbed a late winner in Wednesday’s match.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr could not resist a dig at the VAR system after his team’s win 2-1 over South Africa at the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday, saying the time taken to confirm his opponents’ goal had unsettled his team.
The VAR system, which was introduced at the quarter-final stage and is being used in the competition for the first time, made its first significant intervention when it overruled a lineman’s decision to disallow Bongani Zungu’s goal for offside.
“For five minutes we had to wait, goal or no goal, and that was hard for my team,” the German said. “The second goal did not go in for us and then you have seen this free kick, and this VAR decision -- you never know what can happen with VAR on a free kick.”
Rohr also praised the character of his side who came back from 2-1 down to beat Cameroon 3-2 in the previous round and grabbed a late winner in Wednesday’s match.
“Now we are mentally strong and we were able to come back,” he said. “The attitude of my players was wonderful, such a good relationship with everyone.”
Rohr recalled when Nigeria were beaten 2-0 by South Africa at home in a qualifier for the tournament two years ago, one of his first games in charge.
“We had a young team but this team continued to work and this result perhaps helped us to beat in the next game Cameroon, who were African champions, 4-0 in the same stadium (in a World Cup qualifier), so we could learn from this match,” he added.
Meanwhile, South Africa coach Stuart Baxter has said the country needs to put plans into action.
After seeing his side knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in a 2-1 defeat by Nigeria on Wednesday, the Englishman began addressing the ‘big question’ of the team’s future.
“It’s not only talking about Bafana Bafana as a team, you are talking about individual players, their experiences playing abroad, you are talking about the youth development of the country, you are talking about talent identification, coach education,” he said.
“So we have some very good plans in South Africa but the word implementation needs to be stronger.”
Baxter added: “I think if we can continue the development programme, the Bafana Bafana will gain from that -- but it needs supporting. Any strategies we have to develop football needs to be supported by everybody.”
Although Baxter did not mention the South Africa Football Association (SAFA) directly, his remarks appeared aimed at them.
He has never been afraid to hide his irritation with the governing body, telling them last year to “get their house in order” after they dallied over setting up friendly internationals.
South Africa, who won Afcon at the first attempt in 1996 but have not been able to replicate that success, made it out of the group phase for only the second time since the 2002 finals. They sneaked into the last 16 as the fourth best of the six third-placed teams in the group stage with performances which earned some fierce criticism back home but then stunned hosts Egypt 1-0 before losing to a late Nigeria goal. Baxter said it had been a “long and difficult” journey since he began a second stint in charge of the side in May 2017.
He began with a shock away win to Nigeria in their opening Afcon qualifier but that was followed by a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign where home-and-away defeats by Cape Verde scuppered their chances of going to Russia.
However, they then went on a 15-match unbeaten run which ended with defeat to Ivory Coast in their opening Afcon match.
“Since we played that game in Nigeria, there has been a massive change in the face of the squad,” said Baxter. “I think we have had 30 debutants during the last two years. It’s been a difficult journey because as a coach, if you make changes, sometimes it’s very popular. You bring in some young players, that’s very popular. But if you lose games, and you don’t do very well, it isn’t.”
“We came to here, really, to try and give this team experience of a major tournament they hadn’t had. I’m sure the experience will do the players good, but you have to learn. You have to learn and adjust and be better, so we need to be better.”