Former Nigeria internationals, Etim Esin and Edema Fuludu, have warned Nigeria coach, Gernot Rohr, over Algeria’s new coach, Georges Leekens.
With 16 days to their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo, Algeria on Thursday announced the Belgian as the new coach of the Desert Foxes following the sack of Serbian Milovan Rajevac, who left the post after their 1-1 draw with Cameroon in their opening match of the World Cup qualifiers.
Nigeria, who are on top of Group B of the qualifiers with three points, will host Algeria on November 12 at the Uyo stadium. The Algerians are third in the group with a point. Cameroon, who also have one point, are second while Zambia hold the rear with no point.
Leekens will be the third coach to lead the Desert Foxes in 2016 following the exit of Frenchman Christian Gourcuff, who stepped down in April with two years left on his contract, and Rajevac, who left in October.
This is the second time Leekens will be given the Algeria job following a first stint in 2003 when he resigned for family reasons after qualifying the Algerians for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Algeria job came for him two days after he left his job at Belgian club Lokeren. The 67-year-old led Lokeren to an eight-match loss out of 12 games this season.
Former Eagles midfielder Etim believes the former Tunisia coach, who also coached the Belgian national team in 1997 and 2010, will be hoping to start his second Algerian stint with a victory in Uyo before leading the Foxes to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Leekens led Tunisia to the quarterfinal of the Equatorial Guinea 2015 AFCON, where he lost to the hosts after extra time.
Etim said Nigeria should be careful of the Belgian coach because he is very familiar with the African game.
“I know Leekens very well in Belgium and he is a fantastic coach. He is very familiar with the African style of football and Nigeria have to be very careful when playing his Algerian team next month,” the former Lokeren player told our correspondent.
“The arrival of a new coach makes the Algerians even more difficult to play. The coach is coming with a new mentality and a new approach to the game; he is going to instill a new sense of purpose and direction in the team, which will make it quite difficult to beat them.
“What is happening to Algeria happened when we got our German coach too but ours came at a time when we weren’t under pressure to get results. Leekens’ team will be very difficult to beat given that he also has talented players to get the job done for him – players like the Leicester City duo (Riyad) Mahrez and (Islam) Slimani – and Nigeria cannot afford to sit back and watch them steal the points from us at home.
“They will be at the Nations Cup while we won’t, so we cannot allow them to get points for the World Cup qualification at our backyard. Leekens is a very technical coach and the Algerian team will be very unpredictable for that match. Our coach should employ the right tactics as he did against Zambia and ensure that a positive result comes out of the match.”
With Leekens yet to achieve much on the continent, Tunisia 1994 AFCON winner, Fuludu, believes his appointment will serve as a psychological boost for the Algerian players.
He said, “Algeria’s appointment of a new coach is a good thing for them; it serves as a psychological boost for the players because they will be seeking to impress him just like it happened when Rohr was appointed ahead of the Tanzania game. The players will want to do everything for him and ensure he succeeds.
“Nigeria should be careful and prepare very well for their (Algeria’s) visit because Leekens’ arrival just made the match tougher. The players now have an extra motivation to play and beat Nigeria at home.
“And for Nigeria to qualify for the World Cup, we have to win all our home matches. I believe Rohr should be working on his defence because they almost let him down against Zambia. The Eagles attack is okay and strong. The work remains on the defence and partially the midfield. If this is done, the Algerians will surely fall in Uyo with their new coach.”