Rwanda: How Far Can Rwanda Go At Rescheduled CHAN 2020?

(file photo).
12 January 2021

All eyes are already on the national football team, Amavubi, as they gear up for the much anticipated sixth edition of African Nations Championships (CHAN).

The three-week showpiece will take place in Cameroon from January 16 to February 7 after it was rescheduled from April 4-25 last year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Head coach Vincent Mashami's side, which makes its fourth appearance - and third in a row - in the tournament, play their opening Group C game against regional rivals Uganda on January 18 at Stade de la Reunification, Douala, before facing holders Morocco on January 22 and debutants Togo on January 26.

Rwanda's best performance in the tournament was in 2016 when the hosts, who were under coach Jonny McKinstry, got knocked out of the tournament by eventual winners DR Congo in the last eight.

Times Sports spoke to different people who shared their predictions on how far the national team can reach in the tournament. However former players and coaches of the national team refused to share their views about the team's fortunes in the competition.

Clarisse Uwimana, Sports Journalist

The team that Mashami selected comprises many quality players. He has key players at his disposal like Jacques Tuyisenge and Emery Bayisenge who got the chance to play abroad and will add valuable experience.

However, the national team should have played more friendlies to prepare for the tournament and the coach doesn't seem to have a consistent first eleven.

It won't be easy to qualify for the last eight when you look at their opponents given that we will be playing against reigning champions Morocco and in-form Uganda.

Yves Bucyana, Sports Journalist

Personally, I think the national team will simply make up the numbers in Cameroon because you can't expect good results from a team which only prepares for tournaments instead of having proper structures that feed into the national team from the grassroots level.

The best our players can do is to play with patriotism to avoid humiliating defeats from our opponents. But to be honest, I don't see them progressing from the group stages.

The statistics don't lie, look at the quick progress other teams are making and compare to ours.

Fabiola Umutesi, a football fan

Everyone who closely follows the national team is worried by their current form. It is easy for us, fans, to predict how far a team that lost warm-up games against Congo Brazaville can go in CHAN.

Honestly, only a few still believe Rwanda can string a few wins in Cameroon, I won't be surprised if their journey ends at the group stages.

Of course, I wish our boys the best but they should keep in mind that winning away from home is the best they can do for us to boost our faith in them.

Patrick Gakumba, Football agent

When you compare our team to its opponents on paper, it is difficult to see them winning any matches.

But it is possible for them to surprise all of us and get out of the group stages.

Yes, the performances have not been impressive but I am confident coach Mashami can turn things around and surprise opponents. He has a team capable of at least making it through to the quarter-finals.

Clever Kazungu, Sports commentator

Rwandan coaches have a very big problem of imposing a defensive system in their teams and that is affecting the national team's performances.

We have quality players in all departments and many of them have experience ininternational games. It's up to the coach to know how to play them.

If he maintains a defensive game, I am afraid we could lose all group matches and drop out of the tournament so early.

But, on the other hand, he tells players to open up and be expansive then the team have the ability to surprise our opponents.

Our players don't have a reason to fear any team in the tournament because many national teams that are normally tough to beat at other tournaments aren't the same at CHAN because they can't rely on foreign players. Rwanda should therefore take advantage of that.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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