The senior national football team ‘Amavubi’ has departed Kigali for Côte d’Ivoire ahead of their final Group ‘H’ encounter in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.
The game, whose result will help or affect none of the two sides, will be played Saturday at Stade Bouaké, in Bouaké.
Bottom side Amavubi have already bowed out of the qualifiers, while the 2015 African champions Côte d’Ivoire already booked their spot to AFCON 2019 finals tournament.
Vincent Mashami’s side held their final training session on Wednesday morning at Kigali Stadium before jetting out of the country Thursday night, at 1am, aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight.
All seven foreign-based stars; Jacques Tuyisenge (Gor Mahia/Kenya), Emery Mvuyekure (Tusker/Kenya), Kevin Muhire (El Dakhleya/Egypt), Djihad Bizimana (Waasland Beveren/Belgium), Abdul Rwatubyaye (Sporting Kansas/USA), Salomon Nirisarike (AFC Tubize/Belgium) and Meddie Kagere (Simba SC/Tanzania) were part of the squad.
However, Kagere did not train with his teammates as he had just joined the camp after helping his club to quarter-finals of the 2018-19 CAF Champions League over the weekend.
Côte d’Ivoire, two-time African champions, won the first-leg 2-1 at Kigali Stadium thanks to goals from Jonathan Kodjia and Max-Alain Gradel. Talisman Kagere netted the consolation goal for the hosts while making his first appearance in the national team since 2014.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash, Ivory Coast are second-placed with 8 points, trailing leaders Guinea by three points. Central African Republic (CAR) are third with 5 points, while Amavubi are boom of the Group H table with only two points.
Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire have already booked tickets to the AFCON 2019 finals tournament, which is due on June 21 – July 19 in Egypt.
After five match rounds, Rwanda are the only winless side in the group, having lost three times and recorded two draws, respectively.
Then under the tutelage of German tactician Antoine Hey, Rwanda started the group campaign with a 2-1 defeat to CAR in June 2017, before bowing to Côte d’Ivoire in an identical loss last September, which was their first game with Mashami – who was appointed in August – as head coach.
The following month, Amavubi lost 2-0 to Guinea in Kigali before both sides played out a 1-all draw in Guinea, which was followed by a 2-2 draw with CAR at Huye Stadium in November.
Rwanda has only made it to AFCON finals tournament once – at the 2004 edition in Tunisia.
Final 23-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Omar Rwabugiri (Mukura), Yves Kimenyi (APR) and Emery Mvuyekure (Tusker FC, Kenya).
Defenders: Abdoul Rwatubyaye (Sporting KC, USA), Salomon Nirisarike (AFC Tubize, Belgium), Thierry Manzi (Rayon Sports), Prince Buregeya (APR), Fitina Omborenga (APR), Emmanuel Imanishimwe (APR), Eric Rutanga (Rayon Sports) and Eric Iradukunda (Rayon sports).
Midfielders: Ally Niyonzima (APR), Kevin Muhire (El Dakhleya, Egypt), Olivier Niyonzima (Rayon Sports), Eric Nsabimana (AS Kigali) and Djihad Bizimana (Waasland Beveren, Belgium).
Forwards: Meddie Kagere (SC Simba, Tanzania), Jacques Tuyisenge (Gor Mahia, Kenya), Muhadjiri Hakizimana (APR), Dominique Savio Nshuti (APR), Juma Nizeyimana (Kiyovu), Lague Byiringiro (APR) and Bertrand Iradukunda (Mukura VS).