By Peter Kamasa
Rwanda national team head coach Antoine Hey has saluted his players after they eliminated Ethiopia to reach the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals which will be held in Morocco from January 12-February 4.
The 16-team finals tournament will be staged in four cities namely; Agadir, Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangier. The final draw will be held on November 17 in Rabat.
Rwanda will be making their third appearance since making their debut in 2011 in Sudan before hosting the 2016 edition when Amavubi reached the last eight before being eliminated in extra-time by the eventual winners, the DR Congo, 2-1.
Amavubi booked the last available ticket after a goalless draw in the second leg played on Sunday at Kigali Stadium, which followed their 3-2 away victory in Addis Ababa the previous weekend.
“I am very happy for the boys, they did a wonderful job in the first half, although we were a bit nervous but in the second half, we came back strong and dominated the game. I am particularly happy because we have achieved what we wanted,” Hey told Times Sport.
Hey’s side maintained tactical discipline throughout the game and held onto the 3-2 lead to earn a draw, which was enough for Rwanda to seal a place in next year’s continental championship that is reserved for players featuring in their respective domestic leagues.
The German noted that, “I think we deserved to be at the finals considering our performance over the two legs. But now our focus is on preparing for the finals in the best way possible.”
On a rainy afternoon at Kigali Stadium, Amavubi endured a challenging start to the game as goalkeeper Eric ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye was forced to make a fourth minute save from Ethiopian skipper Getanhe Kebede.
“Ethiopia had nothing to lose and they had to throw everything at us in the first half, which caused the boys to panic a bit, but in the second half we told them to calm down and play their normal game. The substitutions also helped us to play the way we wanted,” Hey explained.
Amavubi defended well, and got onto their rhythm as they dominated the midfield battle.
In the second half, Rwanda created clear cut chances through Justin Mico, Eric Rutanga, Muhadjir Hakizimana and Abbedy Biramahire but Ethiopian goalie Jemal Tesaw pulled off impressive saves to frustrate the hosts.
In the first leg, Abubakher Sanni and Aschalew Girma netted for Ethiopia while Rutanga, Hakizimana and Biramahire scored for Rwanda.
Rwanda join Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia and hosts Morocco for finals set January, February next year.
Libya are the only former champions who will be in Morocco as the Democratic Republic of Congo failed to qualify while Tunisia did not enter the competition due to domestic football restructuring..
Rwanda 0-0 Ethiopia (Agg.3-2)