Amavubi head coach Antoine Hey stated on Thursday that qualification for Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) finals is possible as he named the final 18-man which travels to Addis Ababa today ahead of the CHAN Play-off first leg qualifier due on Sunday.
The German-born tactician named the final 18-man squad after Thursday evening’s final training session held at Amahoro Stadium. Majority of the players that made it to the final team had a bright start to the Azam Rwanda Premier League with their respective clubs.
New faces include centre back Usengimana Faustin who scored two goals in four league matches for reigning champions Rayon Sports Fc, right and left full backs Sadam Nyadwi and Eric Rutanga who are on their maiden spell at the blues and entertaining forward Manishimwe Djabel who has played a pivotal role in creating majority of goals scored by club this season.
Others are Police Fc’s left back Ndayishimiye Celestin who was part of the Rwanda team which played the 2016 CHAN finals but had never made it into Hey’s squad alongside APR Fc’s midfielder Hakizimana Muhadjiri, AS Kigali’s Niyonzima Ally (AS Kigali) and injury-prone striker Mico Justin.
The new faces were not involved in the previous final qualification round which Rwanda lost to Uganda 2-3 on goal aggregate in August.
He said, “Qualification to Morocco finals is 100% possible, I believe in my players not only because of this match, even during the previous game against Uganda.”
“The match against Uganda showed us how important it is to score a goal away from home. If we had scored away in Uganda through the many set pieces that we had, we would have qualified already with a 2-0 home win and that was really hurting and painful coz we felt that Uganda were not a better side.”
“We picked valuable lessons from that defeat and as we face Ethiopia, we want to prove that we deserved to be in Morocco as one of the 16 teams in this attractive tournament and this would be very good not only for the FA but for Rwandan football and its reputation to participate in this tournament qualified not by any invitation or gift through three rounds.”
He added, “We are very thankful for the second chance that we got after losing the final qualifying round to Uganda in August. Everybody in camps knows that second chances in life don’t come very often. We are now trying everything possible to get over this last hurdle against Ethiopia.”
Rwanda national football team departs to Addis Ababa on Friday afternoon at 16:00 aboard Ethiopian Airways. They will hold their final training session at Addis Ababa stadium on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s clash.
Meanwhile, Ethiopians Walias began their training session on Thursday afternoon with only 23 players present for the first session at Addis Ababa stadium.
Head Coach Ashenafi Bekele has omitted key players such as St, George duo of Salahdin Said and Gadissa Mebrate and Adama duo Surafel Dagnachew and Dawa Hotessa have been left out of the squad.
Rwanda and Ethiopia are vying for a final place at next year’s CHAN finals following Egypt’s withdrawal after clubs refused to release players as the tournament for home-based footballers is not staged during a FIFA international window.
The Egyptians were eliminated in the qualifying competition by Morocco, who then replaced unready Kenya as hosts, creating a vacancy in the 16-team field.
Egypt were reinstated only to pull out, leaving Ethiopia and Rwanda to play each other on November 5 and 12 for a finals place.
Rwanda’s 18-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Ndayishimiye Eric (Rayon Sports Fc) and Nzarora Marcel (Police Fc).
Defenders: Usengimana Faustin (Rayon Sports Fc), Rutanga Eric (Rayon Sports Fc), Nywandwi Sadam (Rayon Sprts Fc), Kayumba Soter (AS Kigali), Ndayishimiye Celestin (Police Fc), Iradukunda Eric (AS Kigali) and Manzi Thierry (Rayon Sports Fc).
Midfielders: Bizimana Djihad (APR Fc), Niyonzima Olivier (Rayon Sports Fc), Hakizimana Muhadjiri (APR Fc), Niyonzima Ally (AS Kigali) and Mukunzi Yannick (Rayon Sports Fc).
Forwards: Nshuti Innocent (APR Fc), Mico Justin (Police Fc), Biramahire Abeddy (Police) and Manishimwe Djabel (Rayon Sports Fc).