18 June 2012

Rwanda: Road to Brazil Looks Hazy

The road to Brazil looks hazy for the Amavubi after a poor start to their 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign. The Wasps have put themselves in a very difficult position after managing a single point out of six. This has left Rwanda bottom of Group H and Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic knows that his team is in for a tough task.

After being drawn against Algeria, Benin and Mali in Group H, it was obvious that Rwanda had a tough job on their hands but the disastrous start has made the task even tougher. Rwanda opened their qualifying campaign with a humiliating 4-0 defeat against Algeria before fighting back to earn a consolation point against Benin last Sunday.

Micho now has a mountain to climb if the Wasps are to orchestrate a comeback in the remaining four group matches.

Against Benin, Amavubi fired 20 shots towards goal, but only seven actually found the target. They dominated possession in the first half, leisurely moving up and down the pitch at will but despite Benin's inability to respond, their net was never really threatened with a decent scoring chance.

The fingers will be pointed squarely at Dady Birori (five shots), Meddie Kagere (four), Olivier Karekezi (four) and Labama 'Kamana' Bokota (four) for failing to put the finishing touches on a plethora of opportunities. Combined, the quartet tested Fabien Fernolle (Benin goalkeeper) five times. That's simply not good enough when you have dominated proceedings.

Every team has an off night and even an offensively strong team like Amavubi cannot be tarred and feathered by impatient fans for one bad game. However, it was yet another glaring example of underachievement from the Wasps when it mattered most. This team has simply forgotten how to score.

The most concerning part for Micho moving forward should be the overall performance of his strikers. Not that it is the point of strength for the team, but for the minimal pressure put forth by the Squirrels of Benin, it was downright embarrassing not to kill off the game.

Razak Omotoyossi scored on Benin's first real threat towards goal, sucking in Eric Gasana into an amateur challenge, before placing the ball past a static Jean Claude Ndoli in goal. At this point, Rwanda looked on course to suffering their second straight defeat until Bokota's last-gasp equalizer from a spot kick.

Overall, Benin put half their total shots on target (five), focusing most of their attention on frustrating their opponents with a solid team effort on the defensive end.

Mental block

An argument can be made that Amavubi beat themselves by not converting open opportunities into goals. It's hard to give full credit to Benin for keeping a clean sheet when you take into account the amount of open headers that were squandered.

Defensive positives were few, but the play of right-back Steven Godfroid, who plays for Royal Olympic Club de Charleroi-Marchienne in the Belgian third division league, was solid, after getting the nod ahead of APR's Albert Ngabo.

Godfroid, 22, who was winning his first international cap, did not look out of place despite the momentous occasion. But, for the most part, Amavubi need to desperately improve their defending before playing Mali next year.

The West Africans' 2-1 victory over Algeria is testament to their strength and Micho should expect them to exploit any space provided just like the Algerians did.

Over the years, Amavubi have lived and died by their passing game and continuously prove to be incapable of winning ugly. Adapt and overcome is a foreign notion, time and again, when things are not going as planned - it almost seems like a mental block prevents the Wasps from fighting through the adversity.

All in all, the chances were there to be converted against Benin, but shaky defending was the true culprit for the draw.

If this crop of Amavubi players expects to rewrite history, the star players (Karekezi, Kagere, Haruna Niyonzima and Eric Gasana) in the team must find their form and fast.

Similar to the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, five African nations will play in Brazil.


June 2: Algeria 4-0 Rwanda

June 3: Benin 1-0 Mali

June 10: Mali 2-1 Algeria; Rwanda 1-1 Benin

March 22-26, 2013: Algeria v Benin; Rwanda v Mali

June 07-11, 2013: Benin v Algeria; Mali v Rwanda

June 14-18, 2013: Rwanda v Algeria; Mali v Benin

September 06-10, 2013: Algeria v Mali; Benin v Rwanda

Only the group winner qualifies for the playoffs, the top five of which eventually qualify for the World Cup

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