Football - Benin - Gernot Rohr; A mixed record with the Cheetahs

Gernot Rohr
Football - Benin - Gernot Rohr; A mixed record with the Cheetahs

In February 2023, Gernot Rohr was appointed national coach of Benin. The Franco-German coach had come back from a period of inactivity since the end of his contract with Nigeria's Supers Eagles. One year on, Sport News Africa takes stock of his debut with the Cheetahs.


Gernot Rohr took over the reins of the team following the unsatisfactory results of his now deputy, Moussa Latoundji, who had been acting as interim coach following the end of the collaboration between the Benin Football Federation and former coach Michel Dussuyer. While it's true that rebuilding a national team in just one year is a major challenge, the former FC Bordeaux defender has made a diverse fortune.

"The team is progressing and starting to take shape".

In ten matches, the team has not won a single match on the pitch apart from the one won on the green carpet against Rwanda. On the bangs of the FIFA Matchdays in March, Benin played two matches without a win against Côte d'Ivoire (2 - 2) and Senegal (1 - 0), at the Licorne stadium in Amiens. Gernot Rhor was already drawing up an assessment on the evening of these matches. "Our collective game and our defensive base were confirmed after the good match against Côte d'Ivoire. We also changed the goalkeeper, who had a good game. We've got the youngsters back like the other day, full of dynamism with a sense of pressing, with a lot of fighting spirit."

"When you play against the African champions and draw a match like we did, it's a moral victory. When you play against Senegal like we did, and you concede a penalty after missing one ourselves, it's really very encouraging. We'd already won 3-0 in Rwanda. Now we're up against the best in Africa, and the impression is that the team is really progressing and starting to take shape," Gernot Rohr told Sport News Africa.

Youth at the helm

Gernot Rohr had announced that the team would be rebuilt and rejuvenated.Thirteen months on, the reality is much appreciated. Nine players in the 17-22 age bracket are now part of the squad, made up of new dual nationals and players from the local league. "A revolution is underway with the integration of young players drawn notably from the latest generation of under-20s who took part in the last AFCON in the category, in the national championship and binationals. Gone are Poté, Adéoti, Adénon and Sessegnon. Even if we recognize that they are aging, we have to have the courage to show them the way out. You have to give Rohr credit for that, and applaud the newcomers," says François-D'Assise Bavon, a sports journalist based in Cotonou.

Ten games, zero wins

Numbers are important when it comes to assessing a coach's performance, but according to François-D'Assise, Gernot Rhor's record is half-full."Gernot Rhor's record is abysmal.As far as any sports reporter can remember, no coach in the last two decades has taken so long to record his first success. It's true that, on his arrival, the Franco-German coach announced the 2026 World Cup as his ultimate goal. But we have to be realistic without being minimalist, and realize that this is a Herculean task. Even if Gernot Rhor didn't manage all the matches in the AFCON 2023 qualifiers, he had every chance of qualifying the team in that group and with the players he had."For Cheetahs fan Abdel Salami, Rohr's record is rather mixed: "You can't paint all the work done by the former Bayern Munich defender as black. But Benin have won zero matches on the pitch since his arrival.

When Gernot Rhor's communication disturbs

The coach's media appearances are sometimes a source of controversy when it comes to justifying the selection of players. The former Nigeria and Burkina Faso coach has claimed to call up the best-performing players in the team, but certain choices have been criticized." At press conferences, I have the distinct impression that Gernot Rhor comes without really working on his cards, or doesn't imagine that colleagues can help him think through some of his choices. These choices are often backed up by dotted-line arguments rather than mature reflection, with the corollary being players who are demeaned when they could be contributing to the national team. While it's clear that the players need to make progress on the pitch, it's also essential that Rohr takes care with his next outings," explains colleague François-D'Assise.

"We've also noticed a rashness in the coach's communication, which is sometimes taken the wrong way by previous announcements.The national team is no longer united. But there is a gradual rejuvenation of the squad,"adds a supporter of the national team.

"The real challenge for the coach is to qualify for Morocco 2025".

As Gernot Rhor rebuilds the Benin national team, he must continue to build a competitive team. Absent from the last two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, Benin and their supporters are hoping to be at the next event in the Kingdom of Morocco."The last two friendlies against Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal could be the start of a real backbone. These matches have given us some certainty about certain players and every line. Continue to explore the possibility of dual nationals, while keeping a close eye on the national championship. The real challenge for the coach is to qualify for the Morocco 2025. The 2026 World Cup qualifiers should serve as preparation for the next AFCON," asserts François-D'Assise Bavon.

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