5selection headaches facing Amunike ahead of AFCON against Senegal

19Jun 2019
Michael Mwebe
The Guardian
5selection headaches facing Amunike ahead of AFCON against Senegal

TWO friendlies, 180 minutes and, most importantly, no humiliations from superior opponents for Taifa Stars mean that the national soccer team is ready to compete in the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 1980.

head coach Emmanuel Amunike.

Ok, maybe competing is an exaggeration or being too optimistic. But there is still a reason to hope, as for the first time in god knows how long, Tanzanian fans won’t have to select other nations to support in the biggest continental showpiece.

However, head coach Emmanuel Amunike has several tough decisions to make regarding his starting line-up for the opening group game against Senegal on June 23.

Here are his selection headaches....

1. The third centre back and the 3-5-2 formation

Tanzania are heading into the AFCON with nine defenders that include four centre backs, Erasto Nyoni, Aggrey Morris, Kelvin Yondani, and Ally Mtoni. It is fairly clear that Azam Football Club's Morris and Young African’s Yondani are the first choice centre backs who will start against Senegal, but there is some significant doubt as to who will take up the last remaining spot in that back-three in case Amunike reverts back to the 3-5-2 formations that he used in most of the qualifiers.

2. Right full-back

There is no doubt Shomari Kapombe absence would be missed but Hassan Hamisi is a good replacement. However, Amunike finds himself in a tough situation with Hassan Kessy missing out the opener against Senegal due to a yellow card accumulation suspension.

He has one natural right full-back, Vincent Philipo but experience counts against him. Philipo is yet to make a competitive debut, his only international match being Sunday’s closed friendly game against Zimbabwe.

If Amunike opts for experience, he can go for either Himid Mao or Nyoni who are familiar with right full-back duties at both club and national team levels.

Meanwhile, Mtoni, the other option available for Amunike, has been a regular on the right side of defence for Lipuli .

3. Left full-back

The Nigerian born gaffer also has a similar headache on the other side of his defence, but this time has two very similar options to choose from, Gadiel Michael and Mohamed Hussein.

Three months ago, Gadiel must have surely thought that his role as Tanzania's first choice left full-back was secure but things have changed. However, the rise of Hussein, who played a significant role in Simba's run to the CAF Champions League Quarter Final, has complicated matters for Amunike.

Both players look excellent going forward, even better with the ball at their feet, and, but worryingly not very comfortable whilst defending. This is another very difficult choice for Amunike, with little to choose between the two players.

4. The defensive midfield combo

Against Egypt, Amunike has opted to play a double pivot. He included Himid Mao and Feisal Salum. At his disposal he have two other defensive midfielders, Frank Domayo and Mudathir Yahya. Here lies another conundrum for Amunike to solve.

Mao is purely a defensive player, the other three, Feisal, Domayo and Mudathir can operate as both defensive and attacking midfielders.

Nyoni is another option for Amunike to use in the pivot position, but the clear contest is among the three, Mao, Feisal and Mudathir.

5. Up front

Before the Egypt friendly game, many analysts of the Tanzanian team were under the impression that Amunike would line-up with a front two of Mbwana Samatta and Adi Yussuf. However, Amunike opted for his trusted front three that helped him secure the AFCON ticket against Uganda.

While a Samatta-Msuva-Bocco combination would still give Tanzania a strike force containing both pace and power, and certainly a lot of goalscoring potential, there is a concern that deploying Bocco as an auxiliary winger might not work against top sides like Senegal and Algeria.