Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr feels missed opportunities cost the Super Eagles dearly in their World Cup exit against Argentina, and also defended his decision to leave his substitutions so late.
Kelechi Iheanacho missed an early opportunity when he could have found a wide open Ahmed Musa but chose to run himself aground, while his replacement, Odion Ighalo, spurned two great opportunities in the second half.
The referee also ignored calls for a penalty – after a VAR review – when Marcos Rojo headed the ball onto his own arm.
“We missed a little bit of presence in attack in the first half and lost a lot of balls in the first half in the forward position,” Rohr told KweséESPN. “They told me there was a second penalty. There was a handball, I didn’t see it, but if we deserve this penalty, it is not because a first penalty has been awarded [that] you cannot give a handball.
“It was painful, especially for the young players who did so well. They gave all they had and fought a good fight and did very well in the second half.
“It is a regret I have, but they are young, they will learn, and I am sure for the Afcon [Africa Cup of Nations] the team will take advantage of the experience of the World Cup.
Rohr also explained his baffling decision to leave his last two substitutions till very late, saying no player deserved to be taken off. It proved costly as Rojo’s goal was the consequence of a tired Victor Moses failing to track back.
“We had already five defenders on the field. We wanted to keep the ball. We made one change already in the first half,” Rohr said.
“In the end the defenders did very well. Nobody deserved to come out of the team because they were fighting so hard in the second half.
“We brought Alex Iwobi a little bit late because Ahmed Musa was a permanent danger for the defence of the opponents, so we have to wait. The problem was we had one day less for recovery than Argentina.”
Rohr added: “It was unlucky, but they did very well. These kind of games build character and they will progress and learn and what they did in the second half made me very proud.”