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With extra efforts, Stars can see Afcon finals again

WITHOUT doubt, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is the most prestigious football showpiece on the continent which has the capacity to produce kings of Africa as far as the beautiful sport of football is concerned.

To feature in this competition, it is a big step for the respective national teams, especially if they manage to reach the finals where a total of 24 teams qualify to battle it up for the lucrative silverware.

Since it mainly consists of natural citizens of a particular nation, those countries which have a poor background in raising players usually find it hard to make a breakthrough, leading to premature elimination.

On the other hand, nations which really invest a lot to groom players from the foundation level always see light at the end of the tunnel because their good deeds pay off.

Yes, there is no way you can have a competitive team if the grassroots level where talent is sourced and nurtured is ignored without making any attempts to keenly upgrade the lower part, which is critical for football development.

From this scenario, if you managed to watch both legs of the recent AFCON qualifiers match between Tanzania's Taifa Stars and Tunisia, you definitely saw the gap that exits in these two sides, and it is not a narrow one but rather a very wide gap.

Since the group stages of the competition were announced and its members unveiled, Tunisia becomes the first team to cruise from group J into the AFCON finals set to be held in Cameroon next year.

Why was that? The answer is simply because Tunisia invests a lot in youth football development, which gives them tangible fruits when it comes to national team duties because they have many options to select players.

Most players from Tunisia play professional football outside their country with high profile clubs where they are further polished. As such, when a chance to play in the national team arrives, they grab it with both hands and work hard to impress.

Having football intelligence is key for any player to excel in his or her career due to the fact that they can play with confidence while believing that the decision they make during matches will surely work positively for the entire team.

From both home and away games that Taifa Stars played against Tunisia, one could easily see that there was no way you can attempt to put the two teams on one scale, because the other part will be high while the other will be low, which is unfair balancing.

It was however not a surprising thing when Stars head coach, Etienne Ndayiragije said the way his side played in the return battle at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, that was their limit according to the way they prepared for the match.

In a nutshell, he meant that he used all his game plans he made before the tight encounter, and as such there was nothing new remaining in his bank account of football tactics to apply for the sake of surprising the visitors.

He even expressed his satisfaction for earning one point against the 2004 AFCON winners while believing that his team can still make it to Cameroon only if they get maximum points in their two remaining matches.

It should be remembered that Taifa Stars will travel to face second placed Equatorial Guinea before hosting Libya in their final fixture of the unfolding campaign.

In terms of individual performances in both matches versus Tunisia, credit should be given to goalkeeper Aishi Manula who really did a commendable job between the poles to avoid conceding many goals.

Also, the entire backline made up of four defenders, Erasto Nyoni, Bakari Mwamnyeto, Mohamed Hussein and Shomari Kapombe were in great form in both legs.

At first, eyebrows were raised when veteran defender Nyoni was included in the team, mainly because he was not in action even at his club Simba due to injury, but his work rate spoke on his behalf.

However, nobody can resist that the country's envoys were dwarfed in midfield dominance, gifting Tunisia freedom to move upfront easily and cause problems, getting the better of Jonas Mkude, Himid Mao and others who rotated at the midfield section.

The blunt striking force has always been a national anthem at the senior team level, where a potential striker who never thinks twice upon reaching the goal mouth is nowhere to be seen, therefore the sooner he is found the better the team will be.

Shortage of key strikers in the country is even seen at club level where leading net busters are usually foreigners, while the domestic ones are finding it hard to do the intended job.


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