JUNIOR Wasps coach Richard Tardy described Wednesday’s Caf U-17 Championship semi-final victory over Ivory Coast at Amahoro Stadium as a great milestone in Rwandan football.
The home side ousted the West Africans after a hard fought 1-0 win and will now play Burkina Faso in Saturday’s final at the same venue.
The electric atmosphere inside the ground set the tone for the performances on the pitch, with both sides giving their all in an enthralling clash.
After a goalless first half and a number of half chances in the opening minutes of the second half, striker Justin Mico finally broke the deadlock on the 72nd minute after slotting in from a clever Bon Fils Kabanda pass.
And with five minutes to play, Rwanda’s principal undoing seemed to be their own profligacy in front of goal, with right winger Mwesigye Tibingana the culprit-in-chief as he shot wide with only Ivory Coast goalkeeper Ouattara Aboubakar to beat.
Despite Ivory Coast enjoying more possession, Tardy was full of praise for the manner in which his troops went about their business.
He said: “We went out fighting and showed good spirit. The players should be very proud of what they’ve done.”
Tardy also paid particular praise to Heritier Turatsinze, whose performance made sure that the team’s injured captain Emery Bayisenge, was not missed at the heart of Rwanda’s defence.
“Heritier had a good game today. He timed his tackles well and kept Ivory Coast’s strikers quiet,” Tardy said.
Despite falling short, losing semi-finalists (Ivory Coast and Congo Brazzaville) will find solace in the fact that they still qualified for the 2011 Fifa Under-17 World Cup slated for June in Mexico. Rwanda and Burkina Faso are also on the plane to Mexico.
In the build up to the final, Tardy has cautioned his youngsters to forget about their group stage win over Burkina Faso.
“The final will be very different to the first game. Burkina Faso has improved a lot since so we have to keep our concentration level up and play with a high tempo,” he said.
The Burkinabe booked their place after a penalty shoot-out victory over Congo Brazzaville on Tuesday.
On top of being a repeat of the opening game of the tournament, which the hosts won 2-1; Saturday’s tie will also be the first final Rwanda has contested in at continental level.