Today (Caf U-23 qualifier at 3:30pm)
Rwanda U-23 vs Somalia U-23
The national U-23 Coach Johnny McKinstry has cautioned his players not to take Somalia for granted after his opposite number conceded defeat even before the ball is kicked. Yesterday, the Somalia U-23 coach was quoted in this paper, saying that they are simply honouring the fixture and don’t expect anything more than a defeat.
The national U-23 side goes into this afternoon’s CAF qualifier as favourites but Mckinstry is adamant that he will not tolerate players who will not give it 100%.
“We won’t underrate any team even though Somalia has not played an official FIFA game in a long time. I will not take that as a reflection of the quality of the players on show.
I have information on some of their players but we shall go into the game a little bit blind so we have to make sure that our performance is at the very highest level and if it is, I think we shall come out with a very good result,” the Irish coach said.
Meanwhile, McKinstry revealed that he has named a balanced team and is excited about the prospect this brings towards the squad’s performance on an individual level.
For instance he has four well established central defenders in former U-17 captain Emery Bayisenge, Belgium-based Salomon Nirisarike, Rayon Sports’ dependable player Faustin Usengimana and the physical Herve Rugwiro all vying for the two available slots.
“They are four good young central defenders and there is going to be two of them very disappointed because all four of them will expect a starting place but unfortunately we cannot do that.
I have already settled on my central defensive partnership not just on individual qualities but also how they work together as a pair,” explained McKinstry.
He further added that, “Sometimes injuries happen in games and we are fortunate that if something like that happens, we have another quality player to step into that position.”
The 29-year-old coach is optimistic about the future of the team. He said, “We can achieve something special with this group of players. It is a young group of men who are very hungry for success and who want to make their mark in the world of football.”
Meanwhile, Somalia Coach Charles Mbabazi said, “We came to participate and honour this fixture because to be honest we are not ready. We just want to go there and enjoy our game. We know we are going to lose. We want to go out there and entertain the small crowd of Somalis so that they can feel that their brothers are playing.”
The return leg will be played in Kenya on May 9 with the winner booking a tie against Uganda while the victor of that tie will face Egypt. The winner will then qualify for the CAF U-23 tournament scheduled for December 5-19 in Senegal. The top three sides at that tournament will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.