Some players coming in with poor form, a brief training camp, lack of friendly matches and the absence of Darrius Garret combined to deny Rwanda a chance to qualify for the 2019 FIFA World Cup – to be staged in China.
During the just concluded fourth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup African qualifiers held at the Indoor Sports Hall in Nigeria, Rwanda endured three defeats, out of three games, to Senegal, Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic.
Head coach Vladimir Bosnjak believes his side could have done better, had his men been given more time to train together in camp and a number of friendly matches.
By losing the three games, Rwanda blew up the possibility of qualifying for the first ever 32-team edition of FIBA’s flagship competition. It is set for August 31-September 15.
“All players didn’t come in good shape, some had some catch-up and adapting to do. For instance Kenny (Gasana) was having a league in Morocco and he directly came from the playoffs to play with us in Nigeria while Adonis (Rwabigwi) had not played any official match since March, and that hurts you know,” Bosnjak said.
“Some other players were not in good shape while others reported to camp really late. All this combined to shape the story of our performance in Nigeria,” he added.
The Serbian tactician also bemoaned the absence of his power forward Darius Garret, who was denied permission by his club P.A.O.K. BC of the Greek Basket League to join the team.
He was pivotal during the first round qualifiers in July.
“Darrius played a crucial role as we beat Mali and Uganda in July, his absence on the team was very loud. The lack of his experience and ability to make points and blocks contributed to our misfortunes,” Bosnjak further noted.
Rwanda kicked off their campaign on Friday against Senegal and in a tightly contested tie, they lost to West Africans by a mere five points, with Senegal winning the game 94-89, thanks in larg part to Gorgui Dieng’s game high 28 points.
Gasana was Rwanda’s top scorer in this particular game with 19 points.
In their second game, which was played on Saturday, against Ivory Coast, Rwanda lost with a difference of 18 points. Ivory Coast, defeated Rwanda 71-53.
Dieudonne Ndayisaba Ndizeye was Rwanda’s best with an individual contribution of 13 points.
While they hoped to end the losing streak in their final group game, Rwanda again took in another defeat, this time failing to overcome the Central African Republic – in a 68-61 loss.
Following the conclusion of the penultimate window, unbeaten Nigeria tops Group F 18 points followed by Senegal in second place with 16 points.
Central African Republic and Ivory Coast are third and fourth, respectively, with 13 points each, while Rwanda are fifth with 12 points, sharing the same point tally with Mali at the bottom.
Meanwhile, Nigeria and Tunisia have already secured their tickets for the World Cup following a triumphant campaign with one qualifiers window to go.
The ultimate qualifiers, the fifth window, are scheduled for November 26 – December 4.
The host nation is yet to be determined.