Full match report, along with Coach McKinstry's analysis of Amavubi strengths and weaknesses, and his plans for improvement following the friendly against Zambia.
Rwanda have suffered a 2-0 defeat to Zambia in their away friendly at the Heroes National Stadium (Lusaka, Zambia) (Sunday, March 29 2015)
McKinstry had been clear from the outset on the danger posed by the team who were crowned African Champions just three years ago in 2012 and who sit just above Rwanda in the FIFA World rankings.
Overall, and despite the scoreline, the young and relatively inexperienced Rwanda team worked hard to frustrate the Zambians, closing out much of Zambia's efforts. Injury and fitness however became factors in the second half, allowing Zambia to claim the victory.
In the first 45 mins the Zambians struggled to create chances, with Rwanda containing Zambia very well. Zambia were only really able to play long direct balls which Rwanda dealt with very well, picking up the second ball. The first half ended 0-0 with a very tense and anxious Chipolopolo home crowd showing their displeasure as their team left the pitch.
The second half began as the first had ended with Zambia looking to make any inroad that would calm their home crowd. The Amavubi continued to contain things well.
The opportunity for Zambia came when Rwanda were temporarily down to 10 men - the Rwandan centre back off the field with an injured hip, with the Rwandan technical staff on the touchline trying to make the substitution. Zambia capitalised on this key defensive gap, with Rainford Kalaba scoring (61st minute) from inside the box following a cross from substitute Allan Mukuka on the right wing.
In the last 20 minutes, tiredness appeared to become more of a factor for the Amavubi, as did their eagerness to press higher for the equaliser. Zambia added to their scoreline just before the close in the 82nd minute. A long direct pass was headed clear by the Rwandan defence, but Zambian midfielder Allan Mukuka moved onto it and volleyed in from the edge of the box, putting Zambia 2-0 ahead. The game finished 2-0 to Zambia.
Interview with Coach McKinstry
Views on the Performance
"In the first half, I was pleased to see Rwanda maintain shape and pick up the second ball as this was a key aspect of our training during the week - so overall what we had worked on in training worked well in the first half."
"We were unfortunate to concede the initial goal when we were down to 10 men through injury. The Rwanda team are however still very young and as they build experience they will be better able to stave off such pressure until the substitution can be made."
"In the last 20 minutes, tired legs and fatigue definitely became evident for us. The players also wanting to be more aggressive to get an equaliser meant that they didn't close down second balls as well as they had been doing in the first 70 minutes."
"While we still largely confined Zambia to playing direct balls, and were successfully getting our heads and feet onto those direct passes, we weren't quite as quick getting onto the second ball. That is how Zambia's second goal came - our midfield simply didn't apply sufficient pressure, so again something to be worked on in training."
"It should not be forgotten that except for two players the team is essentially an u-23 team, with 6 players in the starting 11 still under 20. I felt overall, and certainly that the first 70 minutes, that we saw a positive performance from what is a very young and relatively inexperienced team."
An Opportunity to Develop
The friendly with Zambia is one of a number of important building blocks for the Amavubi as they move towards the 2016 CHAN; 2017 AFCON qualifiers; and the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Coach McKinstry had been clear that with his appointment to the Head Coach role only a few days ago, that he was looking on this friendly fixture against Zambia as an opportunity to assess strengths and weaknesses of the Amavubi squad and staff - an assessment that would shape his work over the coming weeks and months.
"We now have a good starting point. We have a few very promising young players who will be key parts of the jigsaw going forward. We are also now clearer on missing parts of the jigsaw and these will be a key part of our scouting and technical development efforts. Building fitness, experience and continuing our technical development will also be a core focus for us."
Whilst 2-0 is obviously a disappointing scoreline, I see a lot of promise and potential in this group of players and I am looking very much forward to getting back on the training pitch with the majority of them in 3 weeks time when we come together for the u-23 Olympic qualifiers"