DEFYING the poor record of the past two events, Tanzania’s Taifa Stars had an impressive start in this year’s Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup tournament in South Africa With a mission to use the tournament as a build up for CHAN qualifying match against Rwanda’s Amavubi, Taifa Stars are not underdogs as they were previously, they are serious contenders for the title.
They stamped a 180 clean sheet in two matches against tough opponents Malawi and Angola to make their run for quarters a downhill task.
The home team campaign started brightly last Sunday afternoon with a comfortable 2-0 win over Malawi, during which Shiza Kichuya netted a brace in 13th and 18th minutes to make him the leading goal scorer of group A.
As it is the case in football, the positive result gained in the opening match of any tournament boosts the morale of the whole team. This is exactly what happened to Salum Mayanga’s squad.
It was observed during Stars first encounter against the Flames of Malawi that the team can easily defend well throughout the play time, especially when they are leading their opponents.
Netting two goals within 20 minutes seemed to have dealt a blow to the Malawians as most of their attempts were easily dealt with by Stars keeper Aishi Manula.
What most people thought could be the venom that killed Malawian Flames was direct football Taifa Stars played. The same technique was applied to Angolan players in their barren draw.
The game approach and tactics that helped Stars in South Africa can be another success story for the Tanzanian envoy and hopefully it would be tested again to Rwanda’s Amavubi next month.
Stars, prior to their match against Mauritius late yesterday, were leading the group with four points after holding Angola to a scoreless draw. Angola are placed second with four points but Stars lead on superior goal average, having netted twice while the latter only managed once after thumping Mauritius 1-0 later on Sunday.
What next for Stars? There is another obstacle to overpower before finally reaching deeper into the competition and enjoy the real COSAFA Castle Cup competition. Stars were scheduled to wind up group stage assignment by playing Mauritius in a determiner late yesterday.
A win for the home team will earn them seven points while at same time waiting for the results of the second match pitting Angola against Malawi. Angola are the only team to worry as very serious challenger in the race for Group A top team that play South Africa at the quarter final stage.
Unlike a tradition that normally picks two from a group stage, it is only one team that will be given a key to the quarters in this year’s event. Basing on the two games that Mauritius have played against Angola and Malawi, it is not a side to be written off especially at this juncture when their chance of survival into the tournament hangs by a thread.
Mauritius has young and speedy players always looking dangerous after crossing the half-line into the enemy’s territory. Defenders of both Angola and Malawi found it hard to contain hungry-goal searching Mauritius boys even though they failed to make the most of their chances.
All what the team is doing in South Africa is aimed for 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers against determined Rwanda who have turned full focus into the game after a dismal show in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Taifa Stars went to South Africa to drill for the matches hence they are on their guard as alerted by their opponents plot to beat them. Just two weeks from now, Taifa Stars are in the second qualification round next month.
The first leg match is scheduled to be played on the weekend of July 14 -16 in Dar es Salaam and the return leg in Kigali a week later. Rwanda said openly after losing 2-1 to Central African Republic that they look forward to the next games against Tanzania, which according to them will be even tougher.
Shiza Kichuya, Mzamiru Yassin, Mbaraka Yusuf and other key players must use the Cosafa Cup effectively to overcome the Rwandese threat as they did against Malawi and Angola.
The last time both Rwanda and Tanzania met was during the 2015 CECAFA Challenge Cup held in Ethiopia, and Amavubi lost 1-2 in the group stage. The winner between Rwanda and Tanzania will take on Uganda, which is the most probable favourite to go past the winner between South Sudan and Somalia in the second round.
The second round winners will meet in the third round where only eventual winners will qualify to represent the Central and East Zone at next year’s edition, alongside hosts Kenya.
The CHAN tournament, which is reserved for players who feature in their respective domestic leagues across Africa, will be staged from January 11 to February 2, 2018.