Gernot Rohr expects Nigeria to be “very strong” at the next World Cup and says he wants to stay in charge of the Super Eagles despite dramatic disappointment at Russia 2018.
Nigeria were on track for the last 16 with four minutes to go of their final Group D clash with Argentina in St Petersburg on Tuesday, a Victor Moses penalty having cancelled out a superb strike from Lionel Messi.
But Argentina scrambled their way into the knockout rounds after Marcos Rojo connected with a stunning low volley from Gabriel Mercado’s right-wing cross to break Nigeria’s hearts.
The Super Eagles had the youngest squad at Russia 2018 and Rohr, who took charge in 2016, hopes he gets the chance to remain in post.
“It’s a big disappointment, my team did the best, played a very good second half and are missing a few minutes to have qualified,” Rohr told a news conference.
“I am proud of my players. We played well in the second half, we are missing a bit of experience, we have a young team and I think these kind of matches are building the character of the team and in four years they will be very strong.
“I would like to continue because I have a good feeling with this team. We have players who are very young doing well. It’s a good cocktail of youth, passion and discipline. We have never had any problems.
“We lost the first game, worked very hard to be better in the second and they did so well that we hoped to come through against Argentina.
“Like you see, we miss a bit of experience in the last minutes, but this is building the character and we will learn and be better in the next cup – the AFCON – and I hope we will do well in this competition.”
Nigeria felt they should have had a second penalty when Rojo appeared to handle the ball in the box with the scores level, but after consulting VAR the referee opted not to point to the spot.
“A story of penalties again. I believe this was a hand, the second one, but I didn’t see the video and it is difficult to make a good interpretation. It is not easy,” Rohr said.
“My team has had two penalties against us but today we had a penalty for us, it was a little miracle for us. I was happy about it, but it was not enough, unfortunately.”
Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel also felt the Super Eagles should have been awarded another penalty for the Rojo incident.
“I don’t understand how it was not a penalty. It was a clear handball,” said Mikel, who played in a cast to protect a broken hand.
“If you look at the Portugal game (against Iran), that wasn’t even close to this. This was worse – very open. The ball hit his hand, clearly.
“Maybe the referee has given one penalty and didn’t want to give a second. But a penalty was a penalty. We’ve seen it again, and it was a clear handball. There wasn’t anyway the referee couldn’t give that.
“He watched the VAR. He said the ball hit the hand, but it was no penalty. This is the explanation, I asked did it hit the hand. I asked why it was no penalty and [the ref] said he didn’t know.”