15 June 2017

Uganda/Cape Verde: Afcon 2019 - Key Inferences From Praia

Photo: http://allafrica.com/stories/201706140499.htmlDaily Monitor
Fufa president Moses Magogo (L) embraces Cranes keeper Onyango after the latter put on another heroic performance away from home.

Kampala — Is it just me that wasn't caught off guard by Uganda Cranes' 1-0 win over Cape Verde?

Barring the slight hitch over lack of flights which forced the game's postponement to Sunday, the Praia trip was a massive success in multiple ways.

For one, I refuse to join the bandwagon of those blaming the federation for what was clearly skulduggery on the hosts' part.

If the refusal to offer seats to our players on Air Cape Verde hadn't been malice aforethought, their FA wouldn't have written to continental football governing body Caf claiming they were playing the game under protest.

Cape Verde were clearly either ill prepared for the game, and thus wanted three free points, or they took Uganda for mugs.

Thank God Geoffrey Sserunkuma's goal settled the tie. Against the background of Tanzania's timid 1-1 draw with Lesotho's Crocodiles, this puts Uganda in pole position to cruise through qualification for Cameroon 2019.

Coach Milutin Sredojevich is proving to be an improvement on his predecessor Bobby Williamson is several facets. Being a stickler to details, the Serbian is a fervent believer in detailed preparations.

For example, the line up he chose in Praia was a direct result of inferences he got from build up matches with Senegal and Ethiopia.

Where Williamson only relied on foreign based players, courtesy of some warped belief that anyone good enough was already playing out of the country, Micho has his sights on the thriving Uganda Premier League. Make no mistake about it.

The Praia game was a potential banana skin against competent opposition. As this was Cranes' first competitive game since the African Nations Cup, it was a transition game.

There were several questions to be answered.

Key among them was how to replace the several senior players who had either reached the end of their tether, or were responsible for a mini mutiny against Micho during Gabon 2017.

I must say he answered these questions satisfactorily.

Isaac Isinde's replacement in central defenders Bernard Muwanga stool tall in partnership with hard as nails Nurushid Jjuuko, whose uncompromising approach doesn't lead to needless bookings.

Starting Muwanga ahead of the exciting albeit developing Timothy Awany was a tough call to make and Micho got it right.

Next up was the question of how to replace Portuguese based rebel winger Kizito Luwaga, Baba Kizito and Moses Oloya. All three carry bags of experience, so replacing them simultaneously was tricky.

Micho performed a tactical twitch my changing formation to a 4-3-2-1, instead of the traditional 4-2-3-1.

In came Kampala Capital City Authority wing-back Isaac Muleme. Though his inclusion denied Cranes creativity in the centre, it gave them excellent balance as he pivoted to shore up central midfield while sporadically offering himself as an attacking outlet down the left.

The Choices

Luwaga's replacement was back to form SC Villa front man Emmanuel Okwi who put in an excellent shift given the workload he encountered. Dare I say, I had never seen Okwi work that hard in the black-yellow-red stripe.

The real trump card was in choosing Daniel Nsibambi ahead of his KCCA strike partner Geoffrey Sserunkuma. Though he's had a tremendous season, top scoring in the League and made a splash on the continent, Sserunkuma is no spring chicken.

He had slowed down in recent weeks. So what better way to utilise him than to use him as a dangerous substitute. That was excellent game management from Micho.

Going forward, we must eliminate the hiccups. Getting stranded in Dakar was a throwback to days when Fufa officials used to rush to Owino Market on match days to purchase second hand Inter Milan jerseys because the national team had no uniforms. Otherwise, one nil is a result that portends glad tidings. Cameroon 2019, here we come!

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Perfect Start - Cranes' Triumph Over Cape Verde

It will not be until March 2018 that The Cranes will resume their quest for a berth at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations… Read more »

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