Five things we learned from Taifa Stars AFCON 2019 campaign

01Jul 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Five things we learned from Taifa Stars AFCON 2019 campaign

TANZANIA bowed out of the Africa Cup of Nations after losing 3-2 to their neighbours, Kenya,  in the second group game which was played in Egypt.  Going into the final group stage games which began yesterday, every team had a chance of progressing apart from Tanzania.

Taifa Stars' players participate in training in Cairo, Egypt to shape up for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Here, we take a look at some of the talking points from the disappointing campaign in the lands of the Pharaohs.

Amunike’s controversial tactics

Emmanuel Amunike has gone from a national hero, who ended the 39-year long wait, to the man who cannot beat anybody, a coach who is ridiculed for his controversial team selection.

The former decorated Nigeria international stayed true to his controversial selections and tactics which has elicited strong criticism during and after qualification.

While he heeded the call for inclusions of more attack minded players in the midfield by starting a midfield trio of Feisal Salum, Mudathir Yahya and Himid Mao, there was little progress. Salum, aka Fei Toto, had to be substituted before the half time break.  Amunike benched Mao and John Bocco against Kenya but nothing went well.

Character and Experience

Most of the Taifa Stars players were too clumsy and nervous when they had the ball. The team had a lot of unforced mistakes which can be attributed to lack of character and experience at the big stage.

They paid the price for individual errors and unnecessary prompting a brutal analysis from Amunike who admitted his players lacked experience and character.

“If you do not know how to manage your game, you pay the price,” Amunike said.

“There were a lot of crazy things going on and we committed a lot of mistakes. Our positioning was wrong, our marking was wrong.”

He added: “As a coach you stand on the sidelines and you are helpless... there is no character in the team. We lack the experience.”

Set-pieces defending

Set-piece defending was a problem highlighted much earlier in the qualifiers, but frustratingly for Taifa Stars fans, things havennot improved.

Just before Kenya scored their second equalizing goal with a near post header from a set-piece, a Tanzanian fan, Mahmud Kullane, tweeted, “Tanzania siwaamini kabisa kwenye set pieces!!!”

Senegal scored from a set piece rebound among many other similar mistakes that could have been punished by a more clinical side.

After the 3-2 loss to Kenya,  it was revealed that Taifa Stars had allowed more scoring opportunities from set-pieces than any other team in this edition of AFCON. Damning stat.

Too much external noise

Tanzania was among the first teams to arrive in Egypt. There were chaos from the day the team left Dar es Salaam. Without sound judgment, Amunike had been allowed to call a big squad of nearly 40 players with only a few days to prepare for the tournament.

He had the big task of culling the squad to a 23-man final list. His every decision was questioned and brought public and media uproar which did not help the team’s cause.

Then there was a protocol circus, with members of parliament storming the team base in Cairo and after the 2-0 loss to Senegal they went to reveal unbelievable allegations.

Poor preparations

With a 20-team league pushing the season to the end of May, Taifa Stars had little time to prepare for its first Africa Cup of Nations participation for 39 years.

Having played only one friendly match, this was always going to be a concern. Amunike must have learnt a lot in his only friendly against Egypt but he needed two more games to fine tune his tactics. The other match we played was against Zimbabwe but it was a mere closed practice match which does not mirror a lot of the conditions in a competitive encounter.

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