U-23: Rwanda secure 1-1 away draw versus Somalia (10 May) to advance in CAF & Rio 2016 qualifiers

Rwanda add a 1-1 away draw to their 2-0 home victory earlier in the month (3-1 aggregate) against Somalia to advance to the next round of CAF and Rio 2016 qualifiers.

First Half: an early goal for Rwanda in extreme temperatures

Rwanda make impressive start with Isaie SONGA scoring after only 3 minutes.

16 year old Kevin MUHIRE, who had scored an impressive goal in the closing minutes of the first leg, made an early impact in this away leg when he successfully stole the ball back in midfield with a strong tackle.   Moving quickly to get his head up and assess the opportunities, he precisely placed a targeted through ball to Striker Isaie SONGA who ran on, rounded the goalkeeper and put Rwanda 1-0 ahead at the 4 minute mark.

Rwanda continued to apply pressure and created 3 or 4 really good chances in the first half with SONGA having opportunities that could have secured him a hat-trick and placed the game out of reach for Somalia before the end of the first half.

Conditions on the pitch were however extreme - a temperature of around 36 C at kick off meant that the players were working in temperatures likely over 40 degrees on the artificial turf, a factor the players appeared not to fully take into account.

"The players were forcing themselves to work to hard in the extreme heat of the first half " said Coach McKinstry

"At half time we were clear with the players that they needed to hold and posses the ball more.  While we maintained a good tactical and defensive shape, when we won the ball we immediately tried to launch attacks every time as opposed to assessing the situation and deciding whether to possess or attack directly... that meant we were working much harder than was necessary, and certainly harder than players needed to in the extreme heat"

Second Half

Rwanda began the second half well - creating another strong chance in the opening 10 minutes.  Striker Isaie SONGA however got the ball caught under his feet and couldn't finish, allowing the defence to get back in.  A further chance to kill the game had thus been missed.

From then Rwanda faded in the heat and Somalia grew in confidence, increasingly winning headers in the attacking third while Rwanda made increasingly imprecise passes.

Somalia equalise in dying minutes.

In the closing few minutes of the game, a defensive mistake by Rwanda allowed Somalia in for the equaliser.

Rwandan leftback, Janvier MUTIJIMA, had the ball and seemingly without looking passed the ball to where he assumed his centre-back or holding midfielder would be.   The ball however went directly to Somalian forward Abbas Mohammed just outside the penalty box, who was then easily able to step forward two or three steps and hit a strike into the back of the Rwandan net, leaving keeper Olivier KWIZERA with no real chance to make a save.

"It was a less than pleasing performance.  In the second half our players were giving the ball away recklessly - really careless passes... our quality just dropped off completely in the second half" said Coach McKinstry.

"The Somalian goal didn't come because of any great Somali play... we just gave it to them and were then out of balance as the rest of the team expected forward movement, not to lose possession in such a simple situation."

During the pre-match technical meeting, Rwanda had requested that cooling breaks be allowed as had been used the World Cup. However clearance from CAF was not secured before the kick-off time meaning that during the game Rwanda players were taking on board water every 10-15 minutes.

"Yes - at over 40 degrees, on the pitch temperatures were extreme, but players must learn to play within the conditions on the day. If players are struggling physically then they need to keep it simple and play one and two touch football. They need to learn to let the ball do the work. Our quality needs to be there."

"These were all things we spoke about before the game. Yes it was tough for them but they needed to be better. We are not talking about the result, we are talking about the performance of individual players..."

"We gave the ball away far too much in the last 20 minutes... a draw was probably a fair result given Somalia's fight in the second half - they were more committed to the cause..."

A need for improvement

Coach McKinstry was clear on the mistakes made and opportunities missed in the encounter:

"This isn't playing at club level. At their clubs if they make a mistake, the opposition may not have the quality or desire to punish them. At international level the heart and desire of the opposition means you get punished for every mistake." said Coach McKinstry

Players have to take responsibility and improve their performance

"Our players need to understand that they need to step up a level.  What we do on the training pitch needs to transfer into the game situation.   A few strong words were said at half-time about some old habits that they were falling back into, and some new routines that they simply weren't using."

"I have told our players that they need to take a long hard look at themselves. I thought their approach in the second half was cavalier, like a boxer promenading with his arms by his side."

"The steps to improvement are clear - every time the old habits returned it came to nothing - we just gave the ball away... When we went back to doing what we had worked on in training we started creating opportunities."

Progress secured to next round of Qualifying

The game finished Somalia 1-1 Rwanda, with the Amavubi winning 3-1 on aggregate and proceeding to the next round of qualifiers where they will face the Uganda Kobs on the weekend of 23/24 May in Kigali


Rwanda Squad 

1. KWIZERA, Olivier, 
8. BAYISENGE, Emery, 
15. USENGIMANA, Faustin, 
4. MUTIJIMA, Janvier, 
6. MUKUNZI, Yannick, 
7. MUHIRE, Kevin, 
9. IRADUKUNDA, Bertrand, 
11. SONGA, Isaie, 
17. NSHUTI, Savio, 
16. MUGENZI, Bienvenue

CAF U23 Championship

The 2015 CAF U-23 Championship will be the second edition of the CAF U-23 Championship, the quadrennial youth football tournament organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for the under-23 national teams of their member associations.

Rwanda will face the Uganda Kobs on the weekend of 23/24 May in Kigali, with the winner of the home and away legs going on to face Egypt.

A total of eight teams will then play in the final tournament, to be hosted in Senegal, December 5-19 2015.

Olympic Qualifiers

The tournament also acts as qualification to the 2016 Summer Olympics men's football tournament , with the top three teams qualifying.


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About Coach McKinstry

Coach McKinstry is a UEFA Pro Licensed Football Coach, with a number of successes across his 20+ year career to date.    He is currently Head Coach of the Gambia National Team and Head Coach of Gor Mahia FC in Kenya (2022-24) where he won two Kenya Premier League titles (2023-24, 2022-23), and the 2023-24 Kenya Charity Shield, returning the club to the top of Kenyan football.

As Head Coach of the Uganda National Team, (2019 - 2021) he led Uganda to win CECAFA 2019 and delivered a win from 2 in every 3 games, going undefeated in 8 in evey 10 games.  This represented the highest 'win' and 'undefeated' rate achieved by a Uganda National Team Coach in over 15 years.

He was Head Coach of the Rwanda National Football Team (2015-16). Within 17 months he led Rwanda to a number of highs - including their first ever appearance in the knockout stages of a major international tournament (Quarter-finals of CHAN, Jan 2016) and finished runner-up in CECAFA (Dec 2105), being named 'Coach of the Tournament' for his efforts. 

Across 2013-14, he was Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men's Football team. Within just over a year, he had led Sierra Leone to their highest ever FIFA World and African rankings - 7th in Africa and 50th in the World (August 2014). 

He has also been Head Coach of Saif Sporting Club, Bangladesh Premier League (2018-19); and FK Kauno Zalgiris, Lithuanian A-Lyga (2017-18).   

Coach McKinstry is a European (UEFA), American (NSCAA) and university qualified football coach and a member of Common Goal.

Quotes: What the media say

  • Leone Stars shine with purpose... what is even more remarkable is what the young Northern Irishman has done ... the Leone Stars are ranked 50th in the world and seventh in Africa – higher than they have ever been.

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  • Very few 29-year-olds have managed a national football team. None have done it while that country is being brought to its knees by Ebola.

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    Ben Smith BBC Sport
  • The figures do not lie. The six matches on McKinstry’s watch have been World Cup or Cup of Nations qualifiers. They have lost one.

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    the guardian
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