Rwanda face Côte d’Ivoire with only national pride at stake

On his return to the national team from a four-year hiatus, Meddie Kagere (with the ball) scored the consolation for Amavubi during their 2-1 defeat to Ivory Coast in the first-leg at Kigali Stadium last September. File.


Côte d’Ivoire  Vs   Rwanda   7pm

Amavubi head coach Vincent Mashami has called on his players to keep their feet on the ground and let football do the talking when they face Côte d’Ivoire in their final Group ‘H’ Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2019) qualifier on Saturday.

The 2015 African champions host Rwanda at the 45,000-seater Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan.

Mashami’s side will be looking to end their disappointing AFCON campaign on a positive note after losing three times and drawing twice in their first five games.

“We have had a terrible campaign in AFCON qualifiers, and sometimes we deserved to win but failed to due to various mistakes in injury time. However, this is not time to dwell on what we did not accomplish, but rather focus on the task at hand,” said Mashami.

Rwanda will be relying on the striking partnership of Middie Kagere and Jacques Tuyisenge, with forward Muhadjiri Hakizimana right behind them in search for goals.

Out-of-contest Amavubi will have nothing to fight for, but bragging rights over already-qualified Les Elephants as the former shift attention to qualifiers of the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers – due to start in July.

“We have a long way to go in terms of building teamwork and getting players to sticking to our game plan. We have good players at individual level, but how we prepare them for competitions matters the most, and that’s where we have always been getting it wrong,” he added.

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. Kagere netted the consolation goal for the hosts while making his first appearance in the national team since 2014.

By press time Friday, fourteen nations – including Group H’s Guinea and Ivory Coast – had already qualified for the 2019 AFCON finals tournament, scheduled from June 21 to July 19 in Egypt, while ten more tickets across the twelve groups were still up for grabs. 

Led by Liverpool star Naby Keita, Guinea lead Group H with 11 points, three ahead of Ibrahim Kamara’s Côte d’Ivoire. Central African Republic (CAR) are third with five points.

Rwanda has only made it to AFCON finals tournament once – at the 2004 edition in Tunisia.

Probable line up: format: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Emery Mvuyekure

Defenders: Emmanuel Imanishimwe, Abdul Rwatubyaye, Salomon Nirisarike and Fitina Omborenga

Midfielders: Ally Niyonzima, Djihad Bizimana, Kevin Muhire and Muhadjiri Hakizimana

Forwards: Meddie Kagere and Jacques Tuyisenge