10 February 2013

Rwanda: Micho Running Out of Time

After last week's international friendly 2-all draw against a rather depleted Uganda Cranes' side, it remains to be seen if Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic can fix Amavubi's woes.

Appointed on October 31, 2011 to lead the men's senior national football team Amavubi Stars, Micho is finding out that life in the hot seat is not as fancy as he might have thought when he accepted the position.

Before him, it was Sellas Tetteh, Eric Nshimiyimana (interim) Branko Tucak, Raoul Shungu (interim) and Josip Kuze - five coaches in five years and ten coaches since 2000. On average, that is a coach a year which is not exactly a record to be proud of.

With that many coaches coming in and going out, it's not surprising to see why the team has been struggling. There has not been any consistence. Whether it's because the local football governing body Ferwafa has demanded instant results or the coaches have not been the right people for the job is something only the football body can answer.

As far as Amavubi fans are concerned, the mandate handed to Micho by Ferwafa to lead the team after Tetteh's era meant that the Serbian was walking a very tight rope.

On signing the contract, Micho was tasked to guide Amavubi to Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup glory as well as qualify the country for the 2013 African Nations Cup. And while he had little time to prepare his team as he tinkered with strategy and new players, he said that the tasks were doable. "If I weren't up to the task, I would not have taken the job," he was quoted as saying at the time.

Since his appointment, Micho has been bold, and to the surprise of many has chosen to build a new team instead of grooming the squad his predecessor left him. Unfortunately, 15 months down the road, little has been achieved. The team reached the final of the Cecafa Challenge Cup in 2011 only to lose to the Uganda Cranes on penalties. Last year, the Wasps' performance was a lot worse following their quarter-final defeat against Tanzania.

The team also failed to qualify for the 2013 Africa Nations Cup which climaxed yesterday after being knocked out by Nigeria in a double-legged qualifier. Despite dominating proceedings and creating numerous goal scoring opportunities, the Wasps were held to a goalless draw in the first leg only to lose 2-0 in the return leg in Calabar.

Bright start

While those who know Micho say that he has the knack for turning around failed teams in short periods, Amavubi fans seem to be running out of patience. Some even insist that the 43-year-old needs to justify the hefty $16,000 he pockets in monthly wages.

Micho got his Amavubi career off to a bright start after winning four of his first five matches but things have since taken a drastic U-turn. The downward spiral started with the 2013 Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria followed by three warm-up matches ahead of 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Algeria and Benin. The first trial match ended 2-1 in favor of Libya, followed by a humiliating 5-1 defeat at the hands of Tunisia.

The Wasps then drew their final warm-up match against Chad (1-1). At this stage, Micho knew that Amavubi would struggle against Algeria and that was indeed the case as the North Africans ran amok with a 4-0 victory. Amavubi were second best in all departments and the score-line could have been a lot worse had it not been for some spectacular goalkeeping from Jean Claude Ndoli. The team regrouped to grind out a 1-all draw against Benin in their second 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier.

The Serbian now admits that Amavubi need to improve ahead of next month's 2014 Fifa World Cup return leg qualifier against Mali even though one of his players, Haruna Niyonzima, reckons that there are lots of positives to carry from the Uganda Cranes international friendly.

"We've still got work to do," he said, "But we're getting better and better as we go along - we are working hard on it."

Niyonzima, who plays for Yanga, did however admit that the team needs to show a vast improvement in the final third of the field, both in terms of carving out opportunities and in converting those chances.

"In the last few games, we have struggled to create chances and when we have, we have failed to convert them. This is one area we need to work on."


1. Benin 4 pts

2. Algeria 3pts

3. Mali 3pts

4. Rwanda 1pt

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