SECOND LEG:Rwanda needs just a score draw
The national football federation, Ferwafa, did their best to give the national team every possible advantage over the visiting Super Eagles of Nigeria, but still the Wasps failed to sting even when they had the chance to.
The decision to play the match at the artificial pitch at the Kigali regional stadium, Nyamirambo instead of Amahoro stadium was a clear indication that the hosts were determined to win the game, and with just one beat of luck, Sredejovic ‘Micho’ Milutin’s team would be preparing for the return leg with more hope.
Since the artificial turf was laid at the Nyamirambo stadium in 2007, Amavubi have enjoyed a better winning record when playing there than at Amahoro national stadium.
So the decision to play the Super Eagles in Nyamirambo almost paid off, but again the Amavubi squandered a very good opportunity to do one over one the giants of African football.
Full respect to Nigeria and their pedigree as one of the superpowers of African football, but on Wednesday, playing against Amavubi Stars, they looked nothing different from any other average African team that Rwanda has faced in the past.
With a bit more aggression in the final third, Amavubi could easily have claimed a big scalp on a day when everything seemed to go according to plan. Micho set out his team to play with caution especially in the first half, a tactic that makes a lot of sense when your team is playing top quality opposition.
In the second half, after studying the Nigerian game plan and realized they were actually not as dangerous as first feared, the Serb threw caution to the wind and urged his team to attack more but the strikers appeared too nervous every time they got close to Vincent Enyeama, the Super Eagles goalkeeper.
Micho outthought his opposite number Stephen Keshi, and credit where credit is due, his team probably deserved more than they got from the game that saw fans throng the stadium as early as 11 o’clock just in case the entrances are close early.
Amavubi players did themselves and the nation proud with that sort of performance, in fact had Micho played with an outright striker from the start, who would put pressure on the Nigerian centre backs like Labama Bokota did when he was introduced in the second half, maybe Amavubi could have nicked a goal.
The midfield stood their ground, especially Haruna Niyonzima, who did an excellent job linking the midfield and the attacking line and Jean Baptist Mugiraneza, who protected the defence so well after the edgy Hussein Sibomana was removed.
At the back, Mbuyu Twite and Berch Bamuma had both Yakubu Ayegbeni and Peter Odemwingie in their back pockets throughout. Indeed, the pair that terrorizes English Premier League defences every weekend looked nothing different from Sunday league strikers.
West Bromwich Albion striker Odemwingie had just a speculative short that went well over the Jean Claude Ndoli’s cross bar in the first half and he was substituted early in the second half. He looked disappointed as he casually left the field but in reality didn’t have too much complaint as his performance was way off the average.
Yakubu, with 15 Premier League goals to his name at struggling Blackburn Rovers, I don’t remember a single short on target from him the whole match, which says a lot about not his high standards but Amavubi’s centre backs. Mbuyu played probably his best game in Amavubi colors.
You can criticize Micho for anything but not for not having a big impact as far as improving his players are concerned. The best example being Jean Claude Iranzi, who is not only becoming a very important member of the team, but also an excellent fullback.
Meddie Kagere was all over the field, it was hard to state his real position on the day as he kept switching positions with Dady Birori and Olivier Karekezi—he attacked, defended and probably covered more grass that any player on the field, no wonder he looked so exhausted in the last quarter of an hour.
Against Nigeria, the APR starlet had a real blinder of a game as he helped Micho continue his impressive start to his reign as Amavubi Stars’ coach. The former SC Villa and St. George coach has now won seven, drawn three and lost just one of his 11 games in charge, a record any coach at level would simply envy.
Still advantage Rwanda
Having said that, we can’t get carried away by only drawing 0-0 with a Nigeria team that is widely known for faltering to deceive against the so called ‘minors’ more often than not.
In 2005, the Super Eagles left it late to snatch a 1-1 draw during the 2006 Fifa World Cup qualifier played Amahoro stadium. Jimmy Gatete gave Amavubi a deserved lead before striker Martins equalized for the visitors, who went on miss the World Cup held in Germany at the expense of Angola.
A 0-0 draw isn’t a very bad result for Rwanda going into the return leg about three months’ time. It means a scoring draw away would see Amavubi through, yet in another thought, I can’t see Micho’s team keeping a clean sheet or scoring more than one in Nigeria.
Stephen Keshi must have been a relieved man after his team managed to hold on for a nil-nil draw away from home and he’d be thumping at the opportunity to finish the job in-front of their demanding fans, who will be expecting nothing short of victory for their team, and hope that their team qualify for the 2013 Nations Cup especially after the agony of missing the last one in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.