South Africa’s Defeat to Rwanda in the WCQ – Was it an Anomaly?

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The sport has a similar story in both countries, where it helped society overcome unspeakable traumas.

The next FIFA World Cup will take place only in 2026, but its qualifying rounds are already cheering the crowds in Africa. Rwanda and South Africa were face to face in late November, with a surprising victory for the first. Was it a surprise, though? Keep reading and find out.

Walking on the Water

The match took place on November 21st, and Rwanda played at home in the Huye Stadium. It partially explains why The Wasps were so comfortable on the field, even if waterlogged by heavy rain, just before the match started. The elements didn’t impair The Wasps, who opened the score in 12 minutes. The second goal came 16 minutes later, deciding the final score way before the first half of the match, despite Bafana Bafana’s efforts.

Rwanda now leads Group C for the CAF qualifiers. Rwanda’s first position is also due to the draw between Lesotho and Benin, also in Group C. Despite the defeat, South Africa remains in second with three points, one point behind Rwanda. South Africa’s current position benefits from goalless draws at the bottom. Rwanda scored four points in two games, as the first match against Zimbabwe ended in an uneventful 0-0 draw.

The Context

Last September, FIFA released an updated ranking of African national teams, where South Africa and Rwanda are far apart. South Africa is in the 12th position, while Rwanda takes the 40th position in a ranking with 56 countries. No wonder why the last game between both countries defied most soccer betting odds.

The sport has a similar story in both countries, where it helped society overcome unspeakable traumas. In South Africa, national football re-emerged in 1992 after the end of the apartheid. The first FIFA World Cup qualification came five years after an impressive campaign in the CAF, defeating Egypt in the final round.

In Rwanda, The Wasps brought joy and hope again after an ethnic genocide tore the country apart and shocked the world. Rwanda’s national team played its first important match in 2004 when it joined the Africa Cup of Nations. It was the result of ten years of massive investments in sports. Despite similarities, South Africa’s team is slightly more experienced and considerably more accomplished. What’s going on, then?

Flying New Heights

Rwanda’s national team is still miles away from becoming a superpower. The low position at the continental level isn’t worse than its 140th position on the global ranking. More disappointingly, the Wasps spent the past three years in the 139th position. What statistics don’t show is that sport is growing nationwide. We can see it through the Rwanda Premier League.

Several clubs in the league are investing in foreign players aiming to compete internationally. The APR FC is by far the most accomplished team, winning eight out of ten premiership titles. The military-based club already has several international players.

The APR FC and Rayon Sport will likely represent the country in the CAF inter-club competitions. Both are investing heavily in international reinforcements. Meanwhile, clubs like the Police FC, Rayon Sport, Mukura Victory Sport, and Kiyovu Sport are following the same example.

However, according to current rules, each side can have only up to six international players in any given match. Such a limitation divides opinions, though. Many believe that the presence of better-trained and more experienced players is beneficial for national football. The main point in favour of the limitation is that it guarantees opportunities for local players. Anyway, the increasing level of players makes the competition much more attractive.

Exploring New Fields

The Government of Rwanda has already realised that the sport’s potential goes way beyond its stadiums. The country became a co-sponsor of the first-ever African Football League. It will forward the “Visit Rwanda” campaign across the continent. The partnership is expected to boost tourism in the country and also benefit grassroots sports initiatives.

The continent’s first inter-club competition occurred between October and November 2023. It was disputed by eight teams, none of which were Rwandan. However, the number of participants may rise to 24 in upcoming seasons. Rwandan top teams may have a chance. The annual event was first announced in August 2022, when it was still called “African Super League.”

International Wasps

In early November, Rwanda FA announced its new head coach: Torsten Frank Spittler. The German coach was ahead of 1860 Munich’s youth team for five years. He also worked as an assistant manager in the German U16 national squad.

Torsten also holds a UEFA Pro Coaching license, the most important coaching license in European football. Torsten’s tenure started in CAF’s qualifiers with no defeats. Rwanda’s investments in football could be finally bearing its first fruits.