Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has played down the national team’s chances of reaching the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup, arguing that they are not among the top ranked African teams.
Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco and Egypt, Africa’s other representatives in the mundial, are better ranked than the Super Eagles who are 47th and sixth in Africa, and their next opponents Democratic Republic of Congo complete the top five.
“I’ll refer to FIFA again. We are only sixth best ranked African team. And we have to do a lot more to be the best on the continent,” said Rohr to Sportske Novosti.
Rohr is optimistic that an African team will qualify for the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time in history.
He said: “Absolutely, I believe we will love Russia, do a good job. As for Nigeria, I think getting out of the group will be a great success, one must not forget that we are still 47th in the FIFA ranking.”
Nigeria have appeared in five previous World Cup tournaments and their best showing was reaching the last sixteen in 1994, 1998 and 2014.
On the other hand, Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun says they have a team capable of making the country proud at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Although the Super Eagles have been hit by an injury crisis days before manager Gernot Rohr announces a 35-man provisional squad for the World Cup, the Mainz 05 defender says the team will do well in Russia if the players are in a good condition.
Balogun is still undergoing rehabilitation following a rib injury and the likes of Henry Onyekuru, Tyronne Ebuehi, Joel Obi Mikel and Wilfred Ndidi have been absent for their respective clubs from injuries.
“We have a team capable of doing well in Russia and this team can perform to expectations if we have everyone in great shape,” Leon Balogun told BBC Sport.
“As a professional you don’t think so much about getting injured or avoiding it, you just give everything on the pitch for club and country.
“I know injuries come with football and if we are very lucky not have it, then all the players in Nigerian colours have the spirit to fight for success until the end.”
Meanwhile, Balogun was unlucky not to be named in Nigeria’s squad list for the 2014 World Cup after sustaining an injury on his debut against Mexico, but insists he will make the final squad for the tournament set for Russia next month.