Africa Cup of Nations: Stephen Constantine delighted with Rwanda's remarkable progress in qualifiers
By James Pearson @SportsPeo
Last Updated: 08/08/14 12:16pm
Stephen Constantine has been overwhelmed by the feel-good factor to grip Rwanda in the wake of their progression to the group stage of the African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The nation’s head coach orchestrated victories over Libya and Congo in the first and second round qualifiers respectively meaning they are just one step away from reaching Morocco in January.
Rwanda have been grouped with World Cup finalists Nigeria, South Africa and his old nation Sudan, with the top two securing a place in next year’s finals, while the best third-placed team also qualifies.
We’ve changed the way we look at the game. They are hard-working boys. We’ve looked at the mentality and how we approach the game and it’s paid off.
Constantine earned a Pep Guardiola’s-style toss in the air from his players following their remarkable penalty shoot-out success over Congo earlier this month and he is now left wondering what might happen if they reach Morocco.
“When we beat Congo the country absolutely erupted,” Constantine told Sky Sports. “These events have taken me aback.
“The players ran onto the pitch and tossed me into the air like I was a rag doll. I think for any coach to get that reaction from his players, you can’t really buy that.
“We had the country’s ministers doing a dance in the middle of the stadium. It’s gone absolutely mental here. There’s a great feel-good factor. Rwanda is a fantastic place, it’s clean, green and the people are warm.
“We’ve qualified for the group stages. I can’t imagine what would happen if we qualified from that to the finals in Morocco. It’s been fantastic. I’ve been overwhelmed.
“We’ve changed the way we look at the game. They are hard-working boys. We’ve looked at the mentality and how we approach the game and it’s paid off.”
With regards to qualification, Constantine added: “If we’re going to make it to Morocco it’s going to be very difficult, but we’ve got a good home record.
“We’ve not conceded a goal at home since I’ve been here. We’ve won three out of three at home without conceding and four out of five overall. We feel at home we’re difficult to beat. We’re also 3,000 metres above sea level so that could help as well.”
Reaching Morocco would be a massive bonus for Constantine as his long-term aim remains to build as strong a team as possible for the 2016 African Nations Championship which is hosted by Rwanda.
“In 2016 we will host the African Nations Championship (CHAN) for the locally-based players. My target is to build a team for that time.”