Despite all the pre-match talk of going for nothing less than a straight win against Algeria in the opening 2010 World/African Cup qualifier, in the end, Branko Tucak and his team had to settle for a point.
Had Ghilas Kamel Fathi’s goal bound shot not hit the post after just three minutes following Jean Claude Ndoli’s gaffe with a harmless ball, we would be talking a different story now.
Tucak went for the traditional 4-4-2 and you could sense he wanted to score goals but the problem he doesn’t have the players as was proved by him sticking with Elias Ntaganda on the left side of the four-man midfield.
As versatile as the APR player has been known over the years, he is a defender and not a midfielder, winger for that matter. And by Tucak playing him out of position on Saturday, he showed us two things.
One, he justified his earlier comments that he doesn’t have the players to challenge against top opposition, and two, he exposed some of the players many Rwandans thought or still think are still of any value to the national team.
Among those exposed to the fullest was Ntaganda, one of five survivors from the team that played in Rwanda’s first CAN appearance in 2004.
While, Hamad Ndikumana, Olivier Karekezi and Jimmy Gatete are regularly in their clubs, Ntaganda can’t even sit on the APR bench, leave alone playing 90 minutes.
As for Saidi Abedi, the less said about him the better—he is currently without a club but at least he played his part on Saturday before being replaced by Pekeyake Tuyisenge in injury time.
Ntaganda and Jimmy Mulisa were the two surprise starters or better to say, in the positions they played (or were supposed to play) and it was them, who contributed virtually nothing worthy mentioning before they were belatedly withdrawn at half-time.
Their replacements; Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza and Gatete did more with only their first touches than what the subbed duo did in 45 minutes of international football.
Gatete especially, did more than enough to prove to his critics that, when given the opportunity and have his confidence back courtesy of the coaches; he can still be Amavubi’s main striker, his last cap came last April against Sudan in what ironically was Tucak’s first game in charge.
The Rayon Sport hitman showed glimpses of his past status with some neat first touches and clever passing that used to characterise his game during his hey days between 2003 and 2005.
Unlike Mulisa and Ntaganda, Mugiraneza covered every blade of grass with his tireless running and his coming to the fray, allowed Patrick Mafisango and Mbuyu Twite to surge forward a lot often.
True to Tucak’s remarks about his professional players, Aboubakar Saddou and Hamad Ndikumana were a class apart the rest including team captain Karekezi, Abedi and Mulisa, their coach couldn’t be more spot-on.
Karekezi had one shot on target, a headed goal, which was also rightly ruled out for offside on the stroke of halftime and then went missing for the rest of the game.
The race for man of the match gong between Ndikumana and Saddou was one too close to call but their Omonio defender just pipped his Libya-based counterpart to it with a top drawer performance in the heart of Amavubi defence.