Amavubi Stars head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic faces his first major task as the national team coach as he prepares to take on a rejuvenated Super Eeagles side at Amahoro national stadium.
Like his predecessors, Micho will have to work hard to open up chance for the 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Qualification for the continent’s most prestigious tournament has been the highest target by all foreign coaches hired by the football association (FERWAFA) to handle national team, but only Ratomir Djukovic has managed to achieve it in 2004.
Ratomir had capacity to get forehand information concerning the opponent’s strength and managed to assemble an experienced, physically fit team that could challenge the best in Africa.
Now after the 2004 qualification, almost half dozen coaches have tried and failed; now it’s Micho’s turn to try his luck.
The Serb has a huge task to cope with experience, skill and physical fitness of the current Nigerian squad. Nigeria failed to qualify in a group comprised of former African champions Egypt, Guinea Conakary and Niger.
Egypt, the ruining African champions, were denied chance to qualify as they finished bottom of the group and Nigerians were frustrated by Niger on head to head performance.
Looking at qualification games in Nigeria’s CAN 2012 qualifying group, physical fitness and experience is very key to success.
Niger, who qualified for the first time for this year’s African Cup of Nations on the expense of the Super Eagles, should give Micho guidelines on how to stop the Nigerian strike-force.
Niger plays a quick and physical game, very solid at the back and don’t give opponents chance to shot on goal. Though they lost their opening game against an experienced and professional Gabon side, the team is physically well prepared and this is what Micho try against Nigeria on February 29.
Low level of physical preparedness and experience has been at shortfalls with Amavubi teams especially in CAN qualifiers that attracts the best players on the continent.
Even during the 2011 CACAFA Tusker Challenge Cup, Amavubi were beaten by Ugandans on the physical aspect to win the annual crown. During this encounter, Amavubi twice went a head through Meddie Kagere but Ugandans replied consequently to win the game on penalties.
Two weeks ago I read in the New Times that Micho was impressed by youngsters in Amavubi preparations. Though youth football is on song in the country at the moment, it should not overshadow national team selections.
I feel our country has not yet produced youngsters who can deliver at the highest level.
In September last year when Ivory Coast met walloped Amavubi 5-0 during the 2012 CAN penultimate qualifier in Kigali, many fans were embarrassed by the scoreline.
The challenge put up by the fielded youngsters from the world youth soccer championships in Mexico were far from the senior level.
Though Micho might have new young weapons at his disposal, one might question his choice to rely largely on youth for such a big qualifier against a Nigeria team ranked among the best in Africa.
In Rwanda, youth football started barely five years ago and is yet to reach maturity. I feel we should not rush our young players to big international games otherwise might get embarrassed again.
The Under-17 Rwandan international Andrew Buteera picked a serious knee injury playing against Tanzania and this always happen when young players are rushed into huge challenges without a good physical build up.
Perhaps the inclusion of professionals against the Nigerians might give coach Micho another dimension to attack the West African giants.
The writer is a professional football coach