Success has come quicker than expected for Danish coach Jan Poulsen as he tries to lift Tanzania up the African football pecking order. The Kilimanjaro Stars are ranked 27 of 53 FIFA members on the continent and a 1-0 home victory over Côte D'Ivoire yesterday in the CECAFA Challenge Cup final should lift them several places later this month.
Victory ended a 16-year football trophy drought for the East African country and silver-haired Poulsen, who stressed that success takes time when he took over in mid-year, revelled in the glory before 60,000 ecstatic supporters.
"After a lot of criticism, Tanzania proved worthy champions. The team started slowly but improved with each game," said the 64-year-old who was an assistant coach when Denmark won UEFA EURO 1992 against all odds.
Tanzania lost the opening match 1-0 to Zambia in the 16-day East and Central Africa championship with a Côte D'Ivoire team consisting of home-based stars one of three 'guest' teams. But Stars bounced back to defeat Somalia and Burundi and reach the knockout phase where the penalty-taking skills of captain-cum-defender Shadrack Nsajigwa proved crucial.
He converted the spot kick that eliminated dogged Rwanda, contributed to a penalty shootout victory over Uganda after a goalless semi-final, and calmly scored again from the spot on 42 minutes to settle the final.
Nsajigwa was named the best footballer at the tournament and team-mate Juma Kaseja the best goalkeeper in recognition of Tanzania conceding only one goal in six matches.
Zambian Felix Sunza finished leading scorer with five goals, four of which came against weaklings Somalia, while Ivorian 'super sub' Tchetche Kipre, Ugandan Emmanuel Okwi and Ethiopian Oumed Oukri netted four each.
A concern for Poulsen as he plans for 2012 African Nations Cup qualifiers against Central African Republic, Algeria and Morocco next year is an attack that managed just seven goals.
Tanzania made a good start to their six-match African campaign by forcing a draw at 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers Algeria, but a blunt strike force barely threatened Morocco when losing 1-0 in Dar es Salaam two months ago.