Nigeria will be up to the task of facing 'fantastic' Mohamed Salah at AFCON

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr says that while Egypt maestro Mohamed Salah is a 'fantastic player,' his defenders will be up to the task come January next year when the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Cameroon.

Nigeria and Egypt were drawn against each other in Group D on Tuesday night, alongside Guinea Bissau and Sudan. The two heavyweights will face each other on 11 January, with Nigeria winning their most recent encounter, a 1-0 win in a friendly in 2019.

Salah, who started the new Premier League season for Liverpool with a goal in their win against Norwich, is the obvious danger man for the Super Eagles to neutralise, and Rohr is confident in his defenders.

The German tactician told ESPN: "It is a big challenge to play against Egypt in the first game and a player like Mohamed Salah.

"It is a big challenge for all our defense and also for all our team. We will defend collectively against him of course, and we are growing together since a few years now and I believe our defence is able to be efficient against such a fantastic player."

Along with Salah's Egypt, Nigeria also have to contend with Sudan and Guinea Bissau. As easy as the group may look on the face of it, Rohr is not falling for it, admitting that he would have wanted to avoid Egypt.

He said: "We have a tough group. Egypt, everybody knows and everybody wanted to avoid. But they are with us, it is okay.

"Sudan also. They have a French coach, a friend of mine, who did a good job since he arrived there, coming out from a difficult group. Also Guinea Bissau is not easy.

"We will be very, very well prepared. We need to be ready for this first match against Egypt in Garoua."

Rohr's team may not exactly have a player of the quality and experience of Salah, but the Nigeria coach warned that Egypt, and the other teams, would do well to be wary of his young team.

He added: "We have a young team, but they are doing very well last season and this season also, like Victor Osimhen, who was top scorer in qualification.

"Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi and so many playing very well in the clubs in Europe. So as we think about their players, they think also about our players."

In 2019, at AFCON in Egypt, the Super Eagles won their opening two games to qualify for the knockout phase and Rohr opted to rest most of his starters in the final group game against Madagascar.

That proved to be a disastrous decision as the Super Eagles suffered a shock 2-0 defeat which cost them the group win.

The decision led to some strident criticism against the German, one he has still not lived down, but the coach says he would do it again.

He explained: "I would like to win against the first two teams, and then I can bring in the third game, like I did in the last Afcon, the substitutes, and give rest to our starting players from the first two matches.

"If we win the first two matches it is not a problem, we are qualified and then we can change our team. But of course, nobody will be underrated and we are not afraid of anybody.

"I think that most important is to start well the competition."

For now, the manager says his immediate priority is on preparing his team for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, kicking off next month.

"Until January we have still a lot of things to do, especially the next game now at home against Liberia, that is the most important and then we will see step by step how it is going," he added.