Rwanda’s Brazil ambitions at crossroads

The current 137th position on the latest Fifa world rankings represents a new low for Rwanda’s football. It is perhaps a reflection of the years of mediocre performance.
 Bonnie Mugabe
Bonnie Mugabe

The current 137th position on the latest Fifa world rankings represents a new low for Rwanda’s football. It is perhaps a reflection of the years of mediocre performance.

Recent results did not deserve to be marked with a slide to no. 137, stuck between Syria and Thailand, but there is no coefficient for potential, only results.

What does it really mean, you may wonder? No one ever won a World Cup because they were top of the rankings.

But the truth is that it is becoming increasingly important to have a good ranking because it is crucial for the draws and pairings that make the path to World and Nations’ Cup qualification possible.

The current campaign for places at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil is a case in point.

Africa’s qualification process has been changed this time around and is made up of three stages. First, there are preliminary games to get rid of the rats and mice, leaving 40 of the 53 teams on the continent to contest the second round of group matches.

Here is where we are.

The 40 are divided into 10 groups of four each. The 10 group winners advance to a final round of knockout games – five in total, home and away, from which the aggregate winner books a ticket to Brazil.

It will be an exciting finale although Amavubi need to get through a tricky group phase.

Realistically, the national side will have problems topping a group comprising Mali, Algeria and Benin after an appalling performance in the opening matches of the World Cup qualifiers.

Hoping Amavubi recover to qualify for the next round they will then go into a draw for the last vital matches.

It is here that the rankings count. As things stand now, Rwanda is outside the top 100, they will be among the five unseeded teams and almost certainly be drawn against a formidable foe like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Egypt or Nigeria.

And this will considerably lessen any chances of going through the last qualification round to qualify for Brazil.

It is even doubtful if Amavubi can rise rapidly over the next eight months to find themselves among the five seeds and avoid a prohibitively tough draw in the last round of the World Cup qualifiers (if they happen to reach there).

To propel into a top-50 or 100 ranking is normally not possible in such a short time and poor performance that have continued to take its toll.

Amavubi are now left to concentrate on friendly matches which, if respected, can be played on Fifa specified dates and hope they win to help them rise slowly but if they don’t, it will be a different story-finding Rwanda in the same category as Solomon Islands and Aruba.

Micho, whose two-year contract with Amavubi comes to an end later this year, must do everything possible in his capacity and within the available resources from the government to help Rwanda progress from their World Cup qualifying group.

On March 3, the country will host Mali in Kigali in Group H’s first qualifying test of the year. On June 7, they will play away to Mali and a week later they will host Algeria in Kigali. Their final round group H match is against Benin in Cotonou on September 6.

Benin currently lead the group with 4 points from two matches, while Algeria and Mali are second with 3 points from 2 matches each. Rwanda has one point from 2 matches.

Only the winning team of each group will go through to the final African qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup.

The 10 group winners of Round 2 will be paired in five home and away ties, with the five winners qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Another busy task awaits Rwanda in June when the country will be making its bid for the third edition of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) to be hosted by South Africa in 2014 when they host the winner between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the first round.

As things stand right now, Amavubi will face the same Ethiopian team which is currently taking part in the Nations’ Cup final in South Africa.

The only advantage seen here is the fact that Rwanda would play the first leg away.

It is important to qualify for the 2014 competition such that our players can have a feel of how it is before Kigali hosts the 2016 edition.

 

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