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Next

Dare Super Eagles fans start dreaming beyond an Afcon title?

Africa Cup of Nations semifinals are not uncharted territory for Nigeria. And why would they be, when they've been to 14 of those already and won every single one of them?

The last time the Super Eagles failed to get past the quarterfinals was in 2008 when they lost to hosts Ghana. A semifinal was thus the lowest bar that the NFF top brass had set for coach Gernot Rohr going into the tournament.

Serious rumblings within the hierarchy, especially after that ignominious capitulation to Madagascar in the group stage, made no bones about the fact that his job depended on meeting that target.

Not that doing so was a recipe for sleeping any sounder at night. Rohr himself admitted as much, telling the media before his side's Round of 16 win over Cameroon: "I am told that even if I win the Cup, it will not be enough."

Still, the German, equanimity personified, has not only met that target, but the manner in which he accomplished it must beg the question of what happens to him and his team, irrespective of what follows next.

Trouble is, Oliver Twist has nothing on Nigerians. The more we get the more we want, and in this case, a fourth Afcon trophy is the new 'more'.

Rohr was half right. He might not be fired if he wins the trophy, but his job would certainly be in the shop window if he does not. Does he deserve it though?

Prior to his arrival in 2016, Nigeria had missed two Afcon tournaments on the spin. First, under the late Stephen Keshi, and then under Samson Siasia.

Admittedly, the chaos within the federation at the time played no small part, but it can be argued that the football has almost always found a way to rise above this manufactured dysfunction in the past.

The team since qualified for the World Cup, and then this Afcon with a game to spare. And it was not about the opposition. Instead, it is all part of Rohr's grand design, to retool the Super Eagles with players who, with proper management, can form the core of a side that will carry on for the next decade and rival the class of 1994 for achievements.

Most coaches who take over the Nigeria job open with claims of "rebuilding" then they go ahead and default to the same players. From the get go, Rohr has made it a point to pick young players.

Aside from a few experienced heads, he has done just that, handing full senior international debuts to the likes of Chidozie Awaziem, Victor Osimhen, Francis Uzoho, Jamilu Collins, Samuel Kalu, Oghenekaro Etebo and Samuel Chukwueze.

All has not been completely rosy, to be fair, but Rohr is a quick learner. He took the lessons of various setbacks and turned them into a blistering World Cup qualification campaign.

And now, with his team on the cusp of a place in the Afcon final, the question of what happens next is a perfectly legitimate poser.

Assuming a worst case scenario where the Super Eagles are on the losing end of the semifinal against Algeria, and maybe go on to lose the Losers' Final, Rohr would almost certainly be shown the door.

Will his replacement (some say now-former Tanzania boss Emmanuel Amuneke is being lined up) continue with this youth-facing trajectory? Or will he look to forge his own path and embark on a fresh "rebuilding" process, thus losing all the work that has gone into the last few years?

Make no mistake, Rohr has made more than his fair share of gaffes, from selections to substitutions (still a sore point with many Nigerians), but the scales tip heavily in his favour.

Clearly, the national team coaching business, especially in Africa, is something of a revolving door (three coaches and counting have been sacked this Afcon), and even the German himself would have little complaint if he is booted out for two consecutive losses at the business end of Africa's showpiece tournament.

But wouldn't it be even better to see exactly what this team - so rich in potential and quality - could accomplish with some coaching nous and stability?

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