Skipper Haruna Niyonzima Hopes To Guide Rwanda Over Libya And The Rest Of Weekend Afcon Previews

Rwanda's Haruna Niyonzima

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Fixtures this weekend (first leg results in parenthesis):

On Friday
In Mitsamiouli: Comoros Islands v Kenya (0-1)
In Khartoum, Sudan: South Sudan v Mozambique (0-5)

On Saturday
In Freetown: Sierra Leone v Swaziland (1-1)
In Kampala: Uganda v Madagascar (1-2)
In Kigali: Rwanda v Libya (0-0)


On Sunday
In Bissau: Guinea Bissau v Central African Republic (0-0)
In Harare: Zimbabwe v Tanzania (0-1)
In Lobatse: Botswana v Burundi (0-0)
In Malabo: Equatorial Guinea v Mauritania (0-1)
In Maseru: Lesotho v Liberia (1-0)
In Ndjamena: Chad v Malawi (0-2)
In Pointe Noire: Congo v Namibia (0-1)
In Porto Novo: Benin v Sao Tome e Principe (2-0)

Rwanda's Haruna Niyonzima
Rwanda’s Haruna Niyonzima
Much loved Amavubi captain Haruna Niyonzima will be hoping to help the Rwanda national football team progress to the next round of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier when his team hosts Libya on Saturday in the return leg.

After a goalless draw in the first leg in Tunisia, the Amavubi will be out to utilise home advantage at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali and they are ready to play their hearts out for Rwanda.

“This is a very important game that we must win against the Africa Nations Championship champions Libya,” said Niyonzima.

The skipper said although the Libyan team is technically good, they are ready to display the high resilience and fighting spirit.

“I call upon fans to come and fill the stadium and give us lots of support so that we win the game,” added the skipper.

While the hosts need an outright win to qualify for the next stage, the Mediterranean Knights of Libya can qualify with any kind of draw.

The likes of Daddy Birori, Abouba Sibomana and the experienced goalkeeper Jean Claude Ndoli are expected to play a key role for the Amavubi side that last qualified for the AFCON event in 2004. They will, however, have to keep a close watch on Libya’s striker Mohamed Al Ghanodi.

If Rwanda go past the CHAN champions, they will face the winner between Namibia and Congo in the last phase of the preliminary.

Oliech-less Kenya look to advance

Kenya will have to do without former captain Dennis Oliech in their starting line-up when they travel to Comoros for the second leg on Friday.

Football - International Friendly - South Africa v Kenya - Royal Bafokeng Stadium
The Harambee Stars lead 1-0 from the first leg in Nairobi on May 18, with Johanna Omolo scoring the only goal of the match.

Kenya are favourites to advance to next round but the loss of Oliech (who has been dropped to the bench) is a blow, with coach Adel Amrouche not prepared to have any mercy on the player after he failed to report for training.

“I’ve spoken with Oliech and it seems he has a personal problem which I cannot comment on but he knows the rule very well, if one does not come for training, he simply can’t play. It doesn’t matter who you are and it’s not because you have a name, all the players are also good,” said Amrouche.

On the subject of the return leg in Moroni, the Belgian tactician expects a difficult encounter but is still confident of progressing.

“We are preparing for the game seriously but it’s not easy since I don’t have all my players, for example from Tusker and Gor Mahia, who were playing yesterday, but most important we are working as a team and we hope to give our best in Comoros.

“Our objective is to qualify for next year’s AFCON and nothing else,” he concluded.

The winner of the tie between Kenya and Comoros will face either Liberia or Lesotho in the second round.

South Sudan look to impress

Assistant coach of the South Sudan national team, Bilal Felix Komoyang Avuruako, has said they are determined to beat Mozambique.

“Football is a very funny sport because we can also beat them more than the 5-0 they beat us in the first leg,” said Avuruaoko during an interview at the El Merreikh Stadium in Khartoum, Sudan, on Tuesday night.

Because of the uncertain security concerns in South Sudan, the match will be played on Saturday at the Khartoum National Stadium.

Avuruako said the technical bench, led by Lee Sung from Korea and himself, have worked hard to prepare the team to be able to get a good result.

“We are sure we shall have good support in the stadium which will work to our advantage,” added the assistant coach.

South Sudan will hope that the likes of Thomas Jacob, Atak Lual and Dominic Oboyo can drive the team to victory against a talented Mozambique team.

However, the hosts will make sure they keep a close watch on the key players Josemar Tiago Machaisse, Edson Andre Sitoe ‘Mexer’, David Apson Manjate ‘Sonito’ and Isac Carvalho, who all scored against them in the first leg.

It is the first time South Sudan is taking part in an AFCON qualifiers since becoming a CAF member in 2012. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. It joined the Confederation of African Football and became FIFA’s 209th member country in 2012.

If they overcome Mozambique, they will move on to face the winner between Zimbabwe and Tanzania in the final round of the preliminary round. Tanzania won the first leg 1-0.

Lesotho visit Liberia

Lesotho believe they can overturn a one-goal deficit against Liberia and advance to the next round of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The Crocodiles host the Lone Stars in Maseru on June 1 in the second leg of their first round AFCON qualifier.

The first leg in Monrovia ended 1-0 in favour of Liberia on May 18, with star striker Anthony Laffor scoring the only goal of the game.

Despite the defeat, Lesotho coach Seephephe Matete was satisfied with the result and believes his side can turn the tie in their favour on home soil.

“We are happy about the result, we did not want to have conceded too many goals and that worked for us, and we will see what to do in the return leg,” said the coach after the first leg match.

“We have great chances of going to the next stage; we will get the needed results against Liberia. The Lone Star has a good team, but they play very slowly. Despite our defensive tactics they could not create many chances [in the first leg].”

Liberia are renowned for being poor travellers and coach Thomas Kojo admitted that he wanted a bigger buffer than 1-0 to take to the second leg. He blamed a lack of preparation time for their underwhelming showing.

“We happy about the result. We did not have much time to prepare for this game. The four foreign-based players we invited came two days [before] the game andyou saw how they played, they actually suffered from fatigue. But we are happy that we got the three points, this is the most important thing for us, we will build on the result in the return leg,” said Kojo.

Mauritania seek to advance in Malabo

Mauritania visit Equatorial Guinea this Sunday hoping to finish off the business away in Malabo.

The Mourabitounes lead Nzalang 1-0 from their, first round, first leg played on May 19 Nouakchott .

Mauritania coach Patrice Neveu said they have an uphill battle but hopes the teams’ one week training camp in Morocco after the first leg win has been sufficient in terms of team building ahead of the final leg on Sunday.

“I trusted my plans, it went well, but I still regret that we did not put that second goal that would have put everything heavily weighing in our favour,” Neveu said.

Meanwhile, Nzalang are looking for their first home in competitive qualifiers since October, 2012 when they defeated DR Congo 2-1 in a 2013 Africa Cup qualifier at the same venue.

Since then, Equatorial Guinea have drawn 1-1 with Tunisia and lost 3-0 to Cape Verde at home in 2014 World Cup qualification.

Swaziland in survival battle

Swaziland have 90 minutes to save their 2015 Africa Cup qualifying hopes when they visit Sierra Leone in Freetown on Saturday.

The two sides are locked at 1-1 from their first round, first leg match played at Somhlolo National Stadium on May 18 where they rallied to snatch a draw early in the second half.

“The players believe they can play better away from home and considering our performance in recent games, it is possible,” Swaziland coach Harries Bulunga.

“I can only hope that this spirit will continue to prevail.”

Swaziland must win in Freetown to advance to the final knockout round knowing a scoreless draw will see Sierra Leone go through on away goals rule while another 1-1 result will see the match decided on penalties.

Meanwhile, the visitors have some injury worries ahead of the trip with defender Sifiso Maseko and midfielder Felix Badenhorst in a race against time to be fit for Saturday’s game.

Home job

Benin will be targeting a positive result at home when they host São Tomé and Príncipe for the second leg at the Stade de l’Amitié in Cotonou on Sunday afternoon.

Stephane Sessegnon
Stephane Sessegnon

Coach Didier Olle-Nicolle’s side take a decent advantage to their home leg having won the first leg 2-0 with West Bromwich Albion midfielder Stephane Sessegnon scoring a brace.

The Squirrels last qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2010 when they finished in third place in their group with one point and failed to reach the knockout stages.

São Tomé and Príncipe will need to score at least two goals to get themselves into the tie and will look to their forwards to inspire an unexpected comeback.

Should they fail to make overturn the result, the Falcons and True Parrots will at least look to avoid a huge away loss, which would go a long way in demonstrating the progress they have made in recent years.

Zim host Tanzania

Zimbabwe will look to progress to the second round of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers when they host Tanzania in the second leg at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday afternoon.

John Bocco
John Bocco

The Warriors have to overturn a deficit after the first leg in Dar es Salaam ended 1-0 in favour of the Taifa Stars with John Bocco scoring the only goal of the match.

Belgium-based midfielder Ovidy Karuru is confident that Ian Gorowa’s side can turn the tables and has urged his teammates to show more urgency after firing blanks in the first leg.

“We need an outright win. There are no two ways about it,” he told The Herald. “We have to try and get a goal in the first minute. I had the opportunity to watch how they (Tanzania) play.

“I observed that their defenders are slow and I am happy the coach is emphasising on speed. He likes the ball to move fast. He wants one or two touches,” Karuru said.

“In this game there is a bit of pressure on our team because of the result from Tanzania, but pressure is a part of football and whether at clubs or national team, it is only how you deal with it that matters.

“I have seen a fighting spirit and sense of unity in this squad and I think we have a strong chance of progressing.”

While the Warriors only had five days to train for the clash, the Taifa Stars had more time to prepare for the encounter, including a friendly game against Malawi on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by africanfootball

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