The national football team will face Mozambique in their opening game of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers on the weekend of June 5-7 in Maputo.
Rwanda was drawn in Group H with continental giants Ghana, Mauritius and Mozambique with the winner of this group automatically qualifying for the final tournament in Gabon.
“It will be a tough game. In 2014, Mozambique lost only one of six home games and, looking at their record, we will go there looking to start the campaign with a win, but we have to show them some degree of respect,” Amavubi coach Johnny McKinstry said in an interview. ‘Os Mambas’ as the Mozambican national team is famously called boast of several players who feature for teams in Europe, including defensive midfielder Junior Mate Samio who plies his trade for Spanish La Liga side Levante, and Boné Uaferro, a former Germany youth international, who features for League Three side Fortuna Köln in Germany and Jeffrey Obst, who plays for Schwarz-Weiß Rehden in Germany.
Mozambique captain Elias Gaspar Pelembe, who turns up for Mamelodi Sundowns in the PSL, South Africa’s topflight league, is expected to pose a threat in midfield as well as Gelício Banze, who plays for Meuselwitz in Germany.
“They have some experienced players in different professional leagues in Europe and Africa; so they are dangerous opponents. It is a game, however, that we can win if we play to our maximum potential,” An optimistic Mckinstry said admitting that finishing second is a more realistic target.
McKinstry further said that the Black Stars of Ghana are the favourites on paper to finish top of Group H because they are a much stronger side but the rest of the teams are evenly matched and will be fighting to pick maximum points against each other.
Following Amavubi’s 2-0 defeat to Zambia last month, the 29 year old tactician said that it is always difficult to win away in Africa but he believes that the Amavubi have what it takes to overcome ‘Os Mambas’ in Maputo.
Amavubi have failed to score an away goal in the past 17 months, including a goalless draw against Libya in the first round of the 2015 Afcon qualifiers and lost to Congo Brazzaville 2-0 in Pointe Noir. In a friendly game against Morocco, last November, Amavubi held the hosts to a goalless draw. The last time Amavubi scored a goal away from home was a Michel Ndahinduka strike against Eritrea in the 2013 Cecafa Kagame Cup in the group stages, their only goal at the tournament before they fell to hosts and eventual winners Kenya 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
This worrying away form has McKinstry in a state of bother but he believes that the Amavubi will adapt to his philosophy of attacking football over time and dominating possession with the purpose of making it count in the final third.
Rwanda made her debut at the continent’s most prestigious football tournament in 2004 and that was the last the Amavubi played at the biennial showpiece.
Mozambique has qualified for Afcon four times including 1986, 1996, 1998 and most recently at the 2010 edition in Angola and did not go past the first round.