The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Testing Time for Cranes Ahead of Rwanda Friendly

A number of new players will be making their Cranes début when Rwanda host Uganda in a friendly tomorrow.

Going by Bobby Williamson's call-ups, John Vianney Nsimbe takes a critical look at what could be at the back of the coach's mind as he plans the team's future.

Williamson told the media on Monday after the team's training session at Namboole stadium that he was looking forward to this friendly because it provided an interesting opportunity.

"I have a chance to see the new players and how they apply themselves. This will enable me to see who is good enough to be drafted into the team for the forth-coming World Cup qualifiers and the Africa Nations Championships (Chan)", says Williamson.

Indeed it is difficult to see it any other way. Being that the Chan is a tournament for local-based players, unlike the qualifiers of 2010, most of the players Williamson had at the time have since moved on to foreign leagues. This has left him with no option but to bring on board fresh players to play in the Chan.

That has seen the arrival of Savio Kabugo (Victoria University), Fahad Kawooya and Michael Birungi both of KCC; Willy Kavuma (Express), Dan Serunkuma (Gor Mahia), Godfrey Kwizera (Kira Young), Sam Sekitto and Fred Kakooza both of Simba. Apart from creative midfielder Kavuma, the rest are largely unknown quantities considering that they are new on the scene.

But it is because of that fact that they will be expected to bring something fresh to Williamson's plans. Kavuma, in particular is the type of player whose main brief is to unlock defences and as Williamson continues to weigh his options in this position that includes Saidi Kyeyune, Kavuma will provide some steady competition and selection headache.

In fact, to many observers, Kavuma's call-up has been long-time coming. However, it has been hard to look beyond Moses Oloya on the right wing since Dan Wagaluka and Vincent Kayizzi fell off the radar in terms of form. This makes the call-up of Birungi all the more important for his directness, pace and ability to dribble.

Cranes has had a shortage of real right wingers so this friendly will show whether Birungi meets the grade. Of course one key element in his game that must watched closely is his final ball, which has been irregular despite his recent good form. Few would question the kind of form Serunkuma enjoyed last season.

He was deservedly voted the Kenya Premier League player of the year. With 17 league goals last season, Williamson will hope that the pint-sized Serunkuma, who has played for Uganda at under-17 and under-20 level can replicate that form. It should be an easy transition for Serunkuma having top-scored in the various under-age football competitions he represented the country in.

Without Henry Kalungi, Isaac Isinde and Andy Mwesigwa, it is for certain that Williamson will be trying out a new central defence partnership. In all likelihood, Dennis Guma is expected to take charge there.

His partner? Kabugo, with whom they play at Victoria University is a big and tough defender and a big prospect because of his speed and aerial ability. Kabugo is the younger brother of Cranes international Ivan Bukenya plying his trade in Iraq.

But, it is difficult to discount Kawooya whose consistency at KCC saw the team let go of Israel Emuge at the end of last season.

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