After an intense three-week period of Presidential campaigns that climaxed with voting on Friday, continental football is back and it takes center stage as Rwanda prepares for the 2018 African Nations Cup (CHAN) third round qualifier against Uganda next weekend.
The first leg clash is scheduled for August 12 at St. Mary’s Stadium Kitende in Kampala, but before that, Amavubi will play a friendly match against Sudan on Monday, August 7 in Kigali.
According to most analysts, Uganda will be hard to overcome, but with the ‘advantage’ of playing the second leg at home, we look at the four things that Amavubi coach Antoine Hey needs to improve if his youthful side is to defy odds and qualify for the finals tournament in Kenya.
1. Test new faces in the squad
Well, there are many who feel coach Hey needs to play more friendlies, which would really help his young side to prepare and be ready to play and defend better against a side like Uganda with vast experience.
The warm-up match against Sudan comes at the right time much as it is a good test for the team since Sudan is an impressive side that beat Burundi to book a date with Ethiopia in the final qualification round.
This will be an opportunity to test some of the new faces in the Amavubi squad and assess their readiness to wear the national colours with pride as Rwanda seeks to make a third appearance at the continent’s second biggest international competition reserved exclusively for home-based players.
Hey added five new players that didn’t featured against Tanzania in the last round; among them is right-back Saddam Nyandwi, who joined Rayon Sports this month from Espoir FC. It is the first time he has been called to the national side.
With team captain and first choice goalkeeper, Eric ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye ruled out of the first leg match after accumulating two yellow cards, this is the best opportunity for either Marcel Nzarora (Police FC) or Yves Kimenyi from APR FC to prove they a worthy replacement.
Young center-back Ange Mutsinzi; another Rayon Sports players added to the squad needs to be tested against Sudan to see if he’s ready to step up on August 12. The 19-year old was a mainstay in Rayon Sports first team as the club romped to the league title with four matches to spare last season.
Police FC striker Christopher ‘Abeddy’ Biramahire and APR FC midfielder Imran Nshimiyimana are the other new faces in the team.
The coach needs to experiment many of his young players to select those who can make the cut. Beating Sudan will be a terrifying signal to Uganda that these young guys are not to be trifled with.
2. Young, sharp and lethal attack
Rwanda’s frontline is not all that threatening taking into account the statistics of two goals scored in Hey’s first three competitive matches, against Central Africa Republic (lost 2-1) and twice against Tanzania in which the first leg ended 1-1, while the second leg was goalless.
Hey knows he needs to set out a team that is hard to beat, which requires defensive tactical discipline but at the same time, he should be aware that goals win matches hence the need to work on his team’s striking efficiency.
AS Kigali forward Barnabé Mubumbyi needs to play more continental matches to gain the experience, and with Justin Mico out because of injury, Biramahire has a chance to show what he can do.
Rwanda U20 national team striker, Biramahire, 18, has plenty of pace to burn and knows a thing or two about running at the opposition defenders.
3. Avoid conceding many goals
Tactically, conceding many goals in the first leg against Uganda will be Hey’s biggest challenge ahead of the second leg—how he manages to deal with this challenge is a matter of his job description but perhaps he can pack the midfield in order to deny Cranes room to run into.
Like in the last round against Tanzania, Amavubi need to get an away goal and if possible avoid conceding any goals, which would put them in a good position and hope that they can finish the job in-front of their home fans at Kigali Stadium.
4. Improve FIFA ranking
Since last year, Rwanda has been dropping in the Fifa rankings—Amavubi sits on 127h position in the latest global ranking and only a win against Uganda will halt that slump.
The need to move up the world and CAF ranking should be another motivating factor for Hey and his players to want to do well in the upcoming two CHAN 2018 Kenya qualifiers with Uganda.