10 December 2012

Rwanda: Cecafa - Amavubi Choke Again

Seldom can a team have prepared so thoroughly for a tournament, and still got it hopelessly wrong.

That was the case with Rwanda's senior national football team Amavubi, following their quarter-final exit at this year's Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup which climaxed on Saturday in Kampala, Uganda.

After crafting out wins against Eritrea and guest side Malawi and unexpectedly losing to Zanzibar at the group stage, the Wasps had done enough to top their group (C) and clearly fancied their chances against a Tanzanian side that heavily relied on the prowess of Simba's Mrisho Ngassa and John Bocco, who has become a household name in the Tanzania Vodacom premier league with Azam.

And it was the latter that put the game beyond Rwanda's reach after making the most of an error by goalkeeper Jean Claude Ndoli's to double Tanzania's lead eight minutes into the second half. Amri Kiemba had given the Tanzanians the lead mid-way through the first half after a string of clever passes between Kilimanjaro Stars midfielder Mwinyi Kazimoto and Ngassa.

Rwanda created chances of their own but could not convert; something which has dogged Amavubi for the past twelve months. "We were not clinical in front of goal and paid the price for it," a disappointed Amavubi coach Milutin 'Micho' Sredojovic, said.

"Missing key players like Olivier Karekezi, Meddie Kagere and Mbuyu Twite, who helped the team reach the final last year, also dented the team's title chances this time round but overall, it was a good opportunity for the likes of Jimmy Mbaraga and Imran Nshimiyimana to stake their claim in the team," the Serbian added.

This was also a big blow to the Amavubi captain Haruna Niyonzima on a personal level, because the Yanga winger came into the tournament believing that this was the ideal time to get that second Cecafa title under his belt.

"There's nothing I can say right now that'll make the fans feel better," he said despondently. "We had a number of opportunities to score but just could not find the net. It's kind of disbelief really. I thought we certainly had what it took to be able to win against Tanzania, unfortunately we didn't."

The former APR player insisted that the team had prepared well for the tournament and put their heart and soul into the quarter-final match, but the Kilimanjaro Stars were just too good for them. Yet he admitted that there was no excuse Amavubi could present to the home fans, and they bear all the responsibility of the defeat.

"I cannot put my finger on what went wrong. But I can say that we fought hard but were just outplayed from start to finish by the better team," Niyonzima said. "But we are not a team that ever gives up and as long as we have a chance then we will do everything to improve in the near future."

With the regional championship out of the way, Micho now has to turn his attention to the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers due next March as well as the CHAN qualifiers in June, 2013. Rwanda's chances of playing in Brazil are slim following a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. The team suffered a 4-0 defeat against Algeria before fighting hard for a 1-all draw in their second qualifier against Benin in Group H.

Rwanda's performances in Cecafa (Since 1999)

1999- Rwanda beat Kenya in the final (3-1)

2000- Rwanda lost to Ethiopia in the third-place play-off

2001- Rwanda finished third

2002- Rwanda finished third after beating Uganda in a third-place play-off

2003- Rwanda lost to Uganda in the final (2-0)

2004- Rwanda eliminated in the quarter-finals

2005- Rwanda lost to Ethiopia in the final

2006- Rwanda beat Uganda in a third-place play-off

2007- Rwanda lost to Sudan in the final

2008- Rwanda was knocked out in the quarter-finals

2009- Rwanda lost to Uganda in the final

2010- Rwanda knocked out in the quarter-finals

2011- Rwanda lose to Uganda in the final

2012- Rwanda knocked out in the quarter-finals

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