Burundi coach Etienne Ndayiragije reveals why tactical flexibility was key in frustrating Kenya

Burundi national head coach Etienne Ndayiragije. IMAGE/ Courtesy

Burundi coach Etienne Ndayiragije reveals why tactical flexibility was key in frustrating Kenya

Festus Chuma 11:32 - 08.06.2024

The Swallows tactical gameplay secured a 1-1 draw against Kenya in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Burundi national head coach Etienne Ndayiragije has expressed satisfaction with his team's strategic execution after securing a 1-1 draw against Kenya in their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Lilongwe.

This result keeps Burundi's hopes alive in Group F as they navigate through the qualifiers with a blend of experienced tactics and youthful energy.

The match unfolded with both teams displaying moments of brilliance, but it was the strategic decisions made by Ndayiragije that ultimately shaped the outcome.

From the onset, Burundi appeared determined, controlling the game's pace and asserting their presence in the midfield through the coordinated efforts of Gael Bigirimana, Mokono Eldhino, and Abedi Bigirimana.

Despite Kenya's late adaptation to the match dynamics, Burundi's early dominance paid off towards the end of the game.

"After missing some clear chances, we finally scored a goal after conceding and managed to lift our performance. I also want to congratulate Kenya; they are a good team and provided tough opposition. I knew Kenya was good at passing through the center, so initially, I wanted to close it down," Ndayiragije reflected on the game's tactical ebb and flow.

The former Tanzania national team head coach's foresight into Kenya's playstyle prompted strategic shifts that saw Burundi leveraging their youthful wings.

"We managed to shut them down despite a few mistakes. I knew that by passing through the wings, we could win because we have fast, young players who can overlap and utilize the flanks. That's why I remained confident, especially since some of the players, including five who were playing their first game and are under-17, were on the field," he added.

The inclusion of under-17 players in such a high-stakes match was a calculated risk by Ndayiragije, who aimed to blend experience with raw, youthful energy.

This strategy seemed to pay dividends as the match progressed, with Burundi adapting to the changing dynamics on the field.

The decisive moment came in the 85th minute when Sudi Abdalla capitalized on a defensive error from Kenya, securing a crucial equalizer for Burundi.

Kenya's shift to a defensive stance after taking the lead ultimately played into Burundi's hands.

Ndayiragije capitalized on this by adjusting his team's formation to exploit their speed and agility, countering Kenya's more conservative approach.

"When I noticed that they changed their formation to put two up front and started playing long balls, I decided to open up my center to use our speed at the front. That's why you saw me put a fast striker and another winger in, to win the overlaps," he concluded.

Burundi's next match will be against the bottom-placed Seychelles on Tuesday away at the Stade Municipal de Berkane in Morocco.

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