Saturday June 7 2014

Areas to panel beat for Nzalang Nacional

Emma Okwi is beaten to an aerial challenge by a Madagascar

Emma Okwi is beaten to an aerial challenge by a Madagascar defender last weekend. Okwi and his fellow Cranes strikers were wanting on the day and must step up if Uganda is to make it past Equatorial Guinea. Photo by Eddie Chicco  

By Allan Ssekamatte

Cranes’ progress to the final preliminary qualifying round for the 2015 African Nations Cup in Morocco was far from impressive.

You would have expected the national team to make their superior pedigree count in a more telling manner against Madagascar.

The goalkeeping was sound but could be better, defense was solid without being imaginative, midfield was bereft of ideas and the striking was simultaneously shy and profligate.

Overall, coach Milutin Sredojevich must think on his feet as the task against Equatorial Guinea will be even more onerous given their recent record as African Nations Cup hosts, and the importance of soccer in the country’s national body-politic.
This calls for a concerted approach as we attempt to avoid the ignominy of failing to make it to the group stages.

Mental readiness
The Cranes must be ready to withstand the roughneck tactics that are sure to be employed by veteran dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s football-mad regime. On the eve of their 0-3 capitulation to Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania complained that they were being treated like prisoners by their hosts.
They were denied access to train at the official pitch and subjected to all sorts of mental torture including poor feeding and shabby accommodation.

This calls for an official team psychologist to be attached to the team, in a role not dissimilar to the one previously occupied by the late David Otti.
The unforgiving nature of Cranes fans means they will not accept mental torture as an excuse for underperformance in Malabo.

There are reports of disquiet within Cranes ranks over the inadequate allowances afforded to players in the aftermath of the team’s 1-0 victory over Madagascar.
Lack of motivation is something that was last associated to the Cranes in the late Denis Obua’s regime. With government and corporate heavyweights Nile Breweries and Airtel sinking hundreds of millions into the campaign, players must be well renumerated, and paid on time. For they will be facing a well paid mercenaries who receive 3000 euros or Shs10m each time they feature for Equatorial Guinea.

The figures occasionally go even higher. Ahead of their recent friendly against Spain, President Obiang’s son offered the players $6.7m or Shs17billion to beat the World Cup winners.
Team coordination
Against Madagascar, the Cranes played like a collection of individuals rather than a team. Improved team coordination calls for less player rotation.

For instance, the players that started against the Barea should start against Equatorial Guinea, with the odd change. That’s the only way they can gel as a team. In the long term, coach Micho ought to reduce on the turnover rate of players in the national team. In the one year he has been in charge, more than one hundred players have donned the black-yellow-red stripe.
This denies the team continuity. Let’s concentrate on a core of 25-30 players.

Cranes branding/support
There was a distinct shortage of hype in the build-up to the Madagascar game. The numerous radio stations that normally pump up fans’ adrenaline, spent most of their time blasting local football governing body Fufa over exorbitant ticket prices and a poorly designed jersey.

Nile Breweries, with their Cranes Na Mutima slogan, did slightly better than Airtel, who are the team’s principal sponsors.

Fufa should work in concert with the sponsors and media to improve the branding, public relations and general aura at Namboole for the Equatorial Guinea match. For the Mandela National Stadium must be packed to the rafters if we are to create the intimidating atmosphere that unnerves even the most battle-hardened of visitors.

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme. Uganda has struggled in front of goal for more than a decade. Over the years, goal-scoring hero Geoffrey Massa has been an easy target for fans seeking a bogey for the team’s profligacy.

However, over the 180 minutes against Madagascar, I don’t recall any other Cranes player drawing a serious save out of the Barea keeper. Let’s make goal scoring the entire team’s responsibility. Use of Massa as a scapegoat is unacceptable as the Amatuks front-runner remains our likeliest route to goal.
Only after taking care of the aforementioned points shall we stand a chance of disposing an Nzalang Nacional side that boasts nine naturalized Brazilians, a Colombian and several Spanish Segunda based players. Cranes Na Mutima!