The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Robert Madoi - Cranes Need to Be Quite More Creative

If there was any doubt as to what The Cranes' fault lines are, last Saturday's draw at home to Senegal's Lions of Teranga put the contentions to bed.

The one shot on goal that The Cranes mustered as well as the goal they conceded spoke volumes, hitting higher decibel levels than those conjured by the hundreds of thousands of vuvuzelas fans carried to Namboole. Whilst The Cranes' singular shot on goal laid bare the dearth of creativity in its midfield, Demba Papiss Cisse's goal showed the dire need for the national team to groom a surrogate for Simeon Masaba.

Both problems have long been blipping on the national football team's radar, but remedies have not readily availed themselves. Instead, the powers that be have chosen to paper over cracks. This has reaped the whirlwind as last Saturday's forgettable performance against Senegal evidently showed.

Square pegs have just about been holding sway in the round holes, but came unstuck against the Lions of Teranga. They sure sunk in the rounded abyss to rise no more. The limitations of a loyal Cranes servant were exposed as The Cranes nosedived in the abyss. That loyal servant is Masaba. Although Masaba has over the years built a reputation of a formidable, if modern-day, right back that pivots effortlessly, the general consensus is that age seems to be catching up with him. He truly is on his last legs, and as such needs to have an understudy.

Fufa, though, would rather have its old ox slaving away. It would rather squeeze any iota left in its old ox. Running on fumes, the ox did a shabby ploughing job against Senegal. Turned inside out on multiple occasions by Senegalese attacker, Ndoye Dame, Masaba never looked comfortable last weekend. He cut the figure of someone who has hit the peak (he has remarkably been one of Uganda's leading assist provider) and is now in terminal decline.

But even with his terminal decline plain for all to see, Fufa would rather cling onto their time-tested ox. The pipeline for young oxen to put their best foot forward has always been clogged by Masaba who is even fielded in the rare buildup matches that The Cranes play. Maybe the young oxen are not good enough, or Fufa and Bobby Williamson really believe that Masaba is a twenty-something. Both scenarios are as incredible as they are gut-wrenching.

The Cranes, though, weren't only exposed in the right back berth. The second third of the team was also equally not good enough with both central midfielders showing a morbid propensity of playing the ball square. In fact, it is long since a Cranes midfielder mustered anything remotely close to a defence-splitting pass. This absence of defence-splitting passes has contrived to perpetuate lethargic performances by Cranes strikers who quite often find themselves grasping on straws.

Evidently, if The Cranes strikers are to get in their element, they will need for the central midfield to be more productive, certainly more creative. Sadly for them, Williamson has set out his side in the rather straitjacket way of attacking through the wings. This, as Kenya and Senegal proved, is quite easy to snuff out. The Cranes, heck Williamson, need(s) a plan B. That contingency plan would materialize if The Cranes' central midfielders showcased some creativity.

Needless to say, the key thing for The Cranes now is to have a critical mass of creative midfielders who have a knack to unfasten rearguards under lock and key. With the game now becoming so compact, such players suffice as they are the likeliest source to fashion a goal (if you don't choose to go route one as Denis Onyango did by finding Geoffrey Massa with a long punt forward before the much-maligned striker won The Cranes a penalty against Senegal).

I know Martin Kayongo Mutumba is supposed to be the embodiment for such midfielders, but his is a topic for another day. His late withdrawal from The Cranes camp after failing to recover from an injury he suffered from the Senegal game means he will out of the reckoning possibly for some time.

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