The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda/Senegal: Serumaga's Last Chance

Dropped for the Senegal game on disciplinary ground, Mike Serumaga cannot afford another slip-up when The Cranes face-off against Congo-Brazzaville this weekend, writes John Vianney Nsimbe.

When Mike Serumaga broke a curfew imposed by Cranes coach Bobby Williamson, to go on a drinking spree last Thursday, he handed his team a tall order. Not that Serumaga is the most versatile player on the team. In fact, his actions pointed to a lack of professionalism that has haunted the national team on several occasion.

His absence, however, limited Williamson's goal-scoring options and Serumaga will be hoping to salvage his tattered reputation this weekend when Cranes take on Congo-Brazzaville at Namboole Stadium. Serumaga has always been flaunted as the next David Obua, what with his lethal left-foot at the apex of a midfield diamond.

He was heralded for the finesse and speed with which he handles the ball and his ability to link up well between the midfield and the forward. But that was before his fortunes changed at top Swedish side, Helsingborgs, where he played with some of the best strikers in Europe. That was Swedish legend, Henrik Larsson.

Once, when he returned from Helsingborg for the Christmas holidays, he got involved in a village football match with his childhood team, KB Lions of Kajjansi and picked up a bad knee injury. Failure to stick to the club's policy led to the termination of his contract. Since then, he has been a journeyman, moving to URA FC, Bunamwaya, Rayon Sport (Rwanda) and St. George of Ethiopia.

But all this won't matter if he can save The Cranes and turn a 3-1 first leg deficit into a straight win to knock out Congo from the race to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). It was Serumaga who scored Cranes consolation goal against Congo on February 29 and already, he has scored some good goals at the Cecafa senior challenge Cup. He has also scored in international friendlies against Morocco (0-1) and Zambia (1-1).

He also scored in the 2-1 loss to Kenya during the ultimate 2011 Africa Nations Championships (Chan) qualifiers. With his accurate shooting, he's a good bet to give Cranes more scoring possibilities. An outright 2-0 Ugandan win would lead to qualification for the next round and the team needs a good creative midfielder behind two strikers.

Plus, Cranes had only two defence-splitting passes last Saturday against Senegal, the reason they had to make use of the 24 free-kicks they created. Serumaga is a good free-kick taker and on Saturday he could craft one beautiful curler to shock Congo.

But Congo is coming off a 0-0 draw away to Burkina-Faso and a 1-0 win over Niger last Saturday in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. They are buoyed.

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