Gernot Rohr was able to stamp ‘mission accomplished’ on the second chapter of his managerial reign as Nigeria qualified for their first Africa Cup of Nations since winning the tournament in 2013.
The Super Eagles secured a place at the 2019 finals after a 1-1 draw with South Africa in their Group E fixture on Saturday.
“After reaching the World Cup, this was our second target, we did it,” said Rohr after his players sealed qualification.
The West Africans experienced heat and humidity at Soccer City, but managed to seal a place in Cameroon with one round of matches still to play.
“It was very hot and very difficult. We knew South Africa wanted to try and win the game and I think they played very well,” he added.
“We had a long journey. The NFF [Nigeria Football Federation] couldn’t make us come early. The weather was tough for both teams and players coming from Europe. The condition was not easy at all.
“Our plan was to play it like a final. I’m happy for this young team because our four regular players were not here.
“The second choice goalkeeper Ezenwa had a good game. Everybody did well. If the striker Odion Ighalo was here maybe we would have scored more,” Rohr added.
Nigeria had by far the better opportunities against South Africa and were also unlucky with two offside calls against captain Ahmed Musa that saw efforts disallowed.
“The goal scored by our captain Musa was a good goal and not offside. I think it was a wrong call by the officials,” Rohr told BBC Sport.
“I don’t criticise the referee but maybe our captain was too fast technically for the linesman.”
The Super Eagles won the Nations Cup in 1980, 1994 and 2013 – that last triumph coming after they missed the 2012 tournament.
But Rohr, who had previously managed Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso, admitted they are not looking too far ahead.
“It’s too early to start talking about winning. We have a very young squad and we learned a lot at the World Cup.
“Hopefully, the older players can help us, I can also hope that all our players stay fit.”
Nigeria have 10 points from five games at the top of the group, with South Africa in second on nine points, two ahead of Libya with one qualifying match remaining.
The South Africans must now go to North Africa in March to face the Libyans and avoid defeat to seal a place at the Nations Cup finals in Cameroon starting in June 2019.
Libya defeated Seychelles 8-1 in the other match in the pool earlier on Saturday.