In the aftermath of Uganda Cranes’ slim 1-0 victory over Congo Brazzaville during the 2018 FIFA World Cup group B qualifier at a largely empty Nelson Mandela National stadium in Kampala, the home team head coach, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredejovic proud, as the colorful peacock asserted;
I feel extremely proud that players absolutely respected the plan and we won dominating
True to Micho’s words, the players adhered religiously to the set instructions on the day and good enough, the three valuable points were deservedly earned at the treasured Namboole fortress.
The final result at Namboole on 12th November 2016 aside, the team swiftly adjusted to the demands of the game on the day.
Fast forward, the unfortunate 9th minute head injury to Simba S.C center half, Murushid Jjuuko after a collision with the lanky Ferebory Dore, a French league 1 striker with Angers football club a bit disorganized the Uganda Cranes earlier set plan.
Jjuuko, who became unconscious for a while was immediately replaced by William Luwagga Kizito, a tricky winger playing at Rio Ave in the Portuguese top flight league.
The change meant, Hassan Wasswa Mawanda who had started as a defensive shield alongside Tonny Mawejje and Aucho Khalid, was drifted to central defence to partner St George’s Isaac Isinde.
Micho admitted at the post match press conference shortly after the game, the early withdrawal of Jjuuko forced him to adjust from 4-1-3-1 to 4-4-2 and later to 4-5-1 when Michael Azira and Godfrey Walusimbi were introduced for Tonny Mawejje and Moses Oloya respectively.
The worry lines, perhaps for the team and the grey areas overall aside from the empty sides lies in the weakness of Micho’s boys to bury off the game with the easiest of all chances.
Mawejje was quite indecisive and late at decision making early in the game after being played through on wide on the right by Oloya.
Miya, Massa, Oloya and first half substitute Luwagga were all culprits of suspect finishing at different stages of the game.
Fine, each game comes with its own demands, pressure levels and expectations, the match against Congo Brazzaville would have been done and dusted as early as the opening 45 minutes of the game handled by Algerian FIFA Referees.
Micho categorically defended the careless finishing as a means of creating chances first;
We had a strategy to first create as many chances as possible.
From the chances created, we could score then.
Moving to the AFCON 2017 preparations, the national team needs to maintain the status quo of having the ability to play different playing formations.
Uganda Cranes needs to be more clinical in front of goal for any sort of goal scoring opportunity created.
From well co-coordinated build ups, forced errors to the opposition coupled by fortunate match officials’ decisions and perfect execution of set pieces (throw-ins, free-kicks and penalties), Uganda Cranes have to master all acts to kill off the game with a variety of options.
After all, modern football depends on the immediate demands at stake involving the current trends of the beautiful game in terms of intensity, creativity, cohesion, block team building chemistry and sheer individual brilliance.
Many fans at least left Namboole stadium with smiles flashing across their faces on three different justifiable grounds.
One, the overall victory courtesy of Standard Liege’s Faruku Miya calm finish past goalkeeper Mongondza Wolfij, the defence kept a solid performance particularly with right back Nicholas Wakiro Wadada’s exceptional blocks and rare pivoting and above all, goalie Robert Odongkara’s graduation to the big stage in absence of the tried, proven and tested Dennis Onyango.
The lanky St George shot stopper commanded the team with the ease of a Roman catholic choir master, he had routine catches from aerial threats and excelled at re-start of play from the long throws, goal-kicks and eye catching drop kicks.
The good news still is that Micho has exceptionally excelled with the tactical analysis of the players available at his disposal, physical and mentality preparation of the guards and technical aspects of his foes too.
Message to technical team:
Micho and the rest of his working technical team right from the head at FUFA, Juma Midi, Fred Kajoba (goalkeeping coach), Moses Basena (assistant coach), Chrispus Muyinda (team manager) and company has mastered the politics of team organization.
Perhaps, a lot is still desired in technical organization of the team as compared to the cream – de-la-cream of this world and particularly on the continent.
Excellent player management, early planning for warm up games, professional players’ travel, planning for training at least needs a second worthy look.
Should Uganda Cranes perfect the final third act, who knows the country christened ‘the pearl of Africa’ will break to the top five on the continent at the Gabon AFCON finals in 2017.
For God and my country.