Lessons from Amavubi’s poor run in AFCON Qualifiers

Amavubi head coach Vincent Mashami opted for a youthful squad against Guinea during the two sides’ 1-1 draw at Kigali Stadium on Tuesday. Sam Ngendahimana.

It is hard to admit, but if there is a platform for Amavubi players, head coach Vincent Mashami and all those concerned to learn some lessons, then it should be in the ongoing qualifiers of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals due in Cameroon next year.

Rwanda and Guinea shared 1-all spoils on Tuesday during the two sides’ return-leg clash at Kigali Stadium, just four days after the latter thumped the Wasps 2-0 in the first-leg in Conakry.

Prior to facing Syli Nationale of Guinea in the two-legged tie, Amavubi had already lost two games against Group H opponents Central African Republic (CAR) and Ivory Coast – both in identical 2-1 defeats.

After four match rounds, Amavubi are the only winless team in the group.

The daydreaming of a return to Africa’s biggest football tournament after 15 years is already flogged out and with the current rear view of the campaign, Mashami’s men are likely to end the group stage at the bottom.

In his comments after the 1-1 draw with Guinea, Mashimi who took over the team in August admitted that his side was out of the contest for a ticket to AFCON finals and he was aware that it would be not be easy when he accepted the job.

However, he tipped the youthful squad for a bright future if some improvement is made in the organisation and management of the national team.

During the second-leg encounter against Guinea earlier this week, Mashami made key changes, opting for youngsters in the starting line-up over long-serving players such as skipper Haruna Niyonzima, Jean Claude Iranzi and Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza, which was hailed by many as a bold move.

The trio of senior players were left on the bench for Kevin Muhire, Djabel Manishimwe, Ally Niyonzima and second half substitute Andrew Butera who provided the assist to goal-scorer Jacques Tuyisenge in the 77th minute, canceling out Guinea’s 32nd lead through striker Martinez Jose Kante.

Now that Mashami’s changes proved to be a potential medicine, the next move should be to give the youngsters exposure and more time together. They are the future.

Muhire played freely well, he made some amazing dribbles and was comfortable with the ball, his pace and ball control were a notable threat to the visitors. For many, the 20-year old could make an excellent replacement for ageing midfielder Niyonzima.

While Bizimana and Buteera still have some work to do to reach the height of veteran midfielder Mugiraneza, they still played some fantastic football in the midfield. The more trust Mashami will place in them, the better they can do.

So often if a team is to perform well, good preparations and playing friendly matches is very crucial.  A cross section of the fans have expressed their concerns over this for so long.

For instance, Amavubi’s last game before hosting Ivory Coast last month was their 2-1 defeat to Central African Republic in Bangui in June last year. Such games (international friendlies) are used by coaches to test players and raise the tempo in the team ahead of the competition.

At this particular juncture after a disappointing group campaign in AFCON 2019 Qualifiers, Amavubi and their managers have one choice to make going forward: To be comfortable with losing or taking the hustle to build an able team.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw