New Vision (Kampala)

10 December 2012

Uganda: Cecafa - How Uganda Cranes Won It

CRANES are officially the best footballing institution in East and Central Africa.

It's a fact that Uganda's perennial rivals Kenya will painfully have to live with and probably just strengthen their might in athletics.

Otherwise, how would you rate Uganda's domineering record of 13 titles in the regional championship, considering that second-placed Kenya have five to show after 36 editions?

The only challenge now is how to transform this overbearing success to the Nations/World Cup qualifying campaigns.

What Bobby Williamson must do is build from both the positives and negatives from the regional championship.

Positives

Steady back-four

It is always the best sides that win championships and Cranes success was poetic justice.

It was an impressive run for Cranes, one in which their allround strengths made them worthy champions with more goals scored (13) and fewer conceded (1).

The Cranes, fell back on old strengths that ranged from just tactical discipline, work ethic and teamwork.

Among the elements of championship winning sides in modern football is defensive solidity.

Cranes' back-four did extremely well in preserving a good record of just one goal conceded. Henry Kalungi and Isaac Isinde are work in progress but will get better with a couple of more games.

The two looked shaky at the start of the tournament managed to re-adjust and assumed distinctive roles.

While Kalungi opted for the no-nonsense style of sweeping and heading away all before him, Isinde embraced the both qualities to soothing effect.

Grinding results

From the start, Cranes players pitched in as well as they could, made themselves as much of a team as possible, kept in touching distance by getting results from even average performances.

They struggled against Kenya in their first game but scrapped through with a 1-0 win. Their 1-0 victory in their second game against Ethiopia wasn't pleasing either.

But they snatched the result they needed which is vital at times.

Kizito was fantastic

From the start of the tournament to the end, Moses Oloya was flamboyant, pleasing to the eye and a dream for those that place a premium on flair.

And yet besides everything Oloya, there was a stand-out star Godfrey Kizito who was something of an unsung hero.

He decided Uganda's destiny in the regional championship.

Although Oloya was the team's play maker, Kizito was the man behind the scenes.

He may not have been the most popular of players, but he did a crucial job for the Cranes in areas of the pitch that was so fundamental.

Considering the manner in which Cranes were set out to play, Kizito, who turns out for Vietnam side Sai Gon, was meant to play in a more attacking role ahead of Hassan Wasswa.

Kizito was by far Cranes best player

Unfortunately, Wasswa was not the authoritative and combative figure he was in previous World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers and more often, Kizito had to abandon his attacking duties just to cover up and assist his midfield comrade.

When he did that, he was still a tremendous physical presence in front of the back four.

He read the game well, and kept possession superbly. His range and accuracy of passing allowed Cranes' myriad attacking talents to flourish against sides that had numbers behind the ball.

He played across all blades of grass in the centre of midfield, cutting back to take the ball off the centre-backs and work it forward, as well as bombing up to the penalty area to support the wingers when they moved with the ball up the by-line.

He was always in the right place at the right time to create goal-scoring chances and defend when the opposition attacked.

Kizito's first Cranes career goal that inspired Uganda to a 1-0 win over Ethiopia in the group stages and winner against Kenya highlighted two fundamental qualities: intelligence and precision.

In both games, he left his markers stuck like traffic cones before heading home Denis Iguma and Godfrey Walusimbi's well-struck free-kicks in the respective games.

His strike against Tanzania was pure precision.

The opposition simply couldn't isolate him as he moved around midfield with unbelievable energy, picking out his teammates with his usual defence-splitting passes that allowed the likes of Oloya to blossom.

Oloya is a fast and good technician, who operated well from wide positions and popped to devastating effect in a free role behind the main strikers.

Step-overs and the uncanny knack for making his markers collapse to his will are what Cranes thrived on to prize open the opposition in the build up to three quarters of the 13 goals they scored in the tournament.

But and it's a big BUT, Oloya needs to learn when to dribble and not to dribble and pass to a teammate.

Robert Ssentongo and Said Kyeyune

URA FC striker Robert Ssentongo came into the tournament as a wildcard and reserve card for either Emmanuel Okwi or Brian Umony.

He however superseded both and developed into the most precious asset for the side.

Ssentongo, who swept the tournament's Golden boot after emerging top-scorer with five goals (after being credited with the first goal against Kenya), proved a natural-born finisher with skills that are impossible to teach.

Ssentongo defied size to impress and bag the Top Scorer's accolade

Sportsmen enjoy golden periods during their careers, and Ssentongo's was revamped last year on the domestic front when he was crowned league top scorer.

Ssentongo's movement into the box was always impressive, his finishing with his leftfoot effective.

Ssentongo and Kyeyune were the only revelations.

The 18-year-old is an exciting winger who will develop into an impact player for the team with time.

He troubled the opposition with pace and movement into the box.

Negatives

Emma Okwi

On a good day or tournament, Okwi is simply irresistible. He was however a shadow of the player that rocked the previous edition with five goals.

His first touch was poor. He could neither dribble beat an opponent or pass. It was the worst we saw of him.

Something wasn't just right.

Hamis Kizza

Kiiza is a reliable striker. The secret is how often any given coach can get the best from him and this tournament was supposed to have done that.

Unfortunately it didnt. He has got wonderful positioning in the box and above all that anticipation of being in the right place at the right time.

The problem is, Kiiza was played out wide which made him ineffective as he is not a dribbler.

Denis Iguma

The 22-year-old is a principled and committed defender. He however showed he has plenty to learn as a right-back.

Apart from not being offensive, he lacks positional sense and needs to improve in decision making.

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