RWANDA begins yet another journey for a place at the Africa Cup of Nations, a gathering of the continent’s football elite.
The Amavubi Stars’ last appearance at the showpiece African football event was in 2004 in Tunisia at 65000-seater Stade Olympique de Rades in Tunis.
Ten years after, Rwanda will use the same venue as they seek to beat Libya in the first round of the qualifier with interim head coach, Andre Cassa Mbungo, hoping to guide the team to break a decade-long jinx.
Reigning CHAN kings, Libya’s Mediterranean Knights have their pride at stake as they take their skirmish with Rwanda. Spanish Javier Clemente will be eager to extend the winning streak for his Knights since their first continental triumph at the CHAN in South Africa in January.
However, Amavubi are no means a push-over. An exciting exchange awaits Rades. Amavubi might be taken as an underdog but Cassa Mbungo has said his charges are ready and have what it takes to cruise past Libya.
Amavubi are expected to wage a fully flagged attack as they target a successful campaign in the qualifier to end their decade absence in the continental coveted finals set to be held in Morocco next year.
The match set to be played at 17.00 local time is billed to be a potentially explosive fixture, tense and tight battle.
“It’s been 10-years now since we qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations. Now, we have a big chance. It will be great for our young team reach there.”
“It is a big test for the players and only victory can ensure their presence in the tournament. We are taking it game by game and our strategy in Tunis is to attack and score goals and avoid conceding any.”
“We have encouraged and motivated our players to be strong against Libya. And going by their attitude and discipline, I am convinced of a good result at the end of the day,” Cassa added.
Skipper Haruna Niyonzima said that the team is in positive frame of mind heading into the Libya clash.
“We are prepared for the match as a team. We are very compact and I think we are good to go. We are all aware of the threat Libya poses, but we are psychologically sound. It is important for us to win the away game to be able to stand a better chance of qualifying to the next round,” added the Young Africans midfielder.
The reigning CHAN champions beat Rwanda 2-0 and 1-0 in two friendly matches played in 2012 and 2013.
In another potentially explosive fixture, a tense and tight battle is what is expected at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam where Tanzania engage a hugely confident contingent of Zimbabwe Warriors led by Ian Gorowa – the man who surpassed expectations by leading them to the semi-finals at the last CHAN in South Africa.
The Uganda Cranes fly-over the Mozambique Channel for a date against Madagascar, Mozambique’s Mambas will fancy their chances against South Sudan’s Bright Stars, neighbors Burundi host Botswana in Bujumbura while Kenya will square off with the Comoros in Nairobi.
Return legs will be played two weeks from the weekend fixtures with the aggregate winners contesting the second round of elimination which would produce the final seven to be spread across the groups.