Saturday May 31 2014

Even under the circumstances, today should offer no excuses

Mawejje’s experience and guile was sorely missed in the first leg

Mawejje’s experience and guile was sorely missed in the first leg way in Madagascar. His return will be key for Cranes against the Barea today at Namboole stadium. Photo by Eddie Chicco 

By Andrew Mwanguhya

KAMPALA- A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. William Shedo must have been in a situation of should I seize the moment, should I not.

The American psychologist and author must have assessed the pros and cons of any action, gauged the risks and swiftly took action. And every action, however measured, has its risks. Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic finds himself in such worlds.

Having penned a two-year renewable contract last May, today is his biggest task yet.
It is not the day his credentials will go through the roof if, as widely expected, he guides his troops past the Barea of Madagascar – shattering the 2-1 first leg defeat in the process.

Yet it will be the day his credentials are ruthlessly scrutinized should he and his Cranes flop against the team that suspended all competitive international football in 2012 to concentrate for this particular campaign.

Micho was still in transition when he took over, guiding the Cranes through the final three World Cup qualifying games (beating Liberia and Angola before losing to Senegal).

There was also no pressure when he finished in the quarterfinals of Cecafa, given the reputation it has gained in the country, and for as long as he guided the Cranes to their first ever win in Chan, which he did with an additional point against Zimbabwe, all was okay.

But this against Madagascar, never mind it being a qualification to the group stage before qualification to Morocco starts in earnest, is one Micho needs the most, and one in which he must deliver.

Even with the repugnant state of how our game is run, the top tier league - whose credibility and quality could spur its own course unit at Makerere, and the utter disinterest from government on the general state of sports management and development, Cranes have enough ammunition to take care of the otherwise deadly Madagascar.
Of course looking at the quality of the Cranes, I have my reservations whether they can make it to Morocco should they negotiate the preliminaries successfully to Ghana, Togo and Guinea’s group; but again, there is no excuse if the task on Saturday is failed.

This weekend Micho and his boys will not sit on the sidelines when the going gets tough, and we shall know the Serbian’s intentions the moment the line-up is out.
Midfielders Geoffrey ‘Baba’ Kizito, Hassan Wasswa and Khalid Aucho did start in Madagascar but it was clear Micho was trying to sit deep and play on the hosts’ dictation, not his game.

And to be honest, there was nothing to write home about them as their midfield, which had Martin Mutumba playing in an advanced role, was devoid of ideas.
With the return of the experienced Tonny Mawejje, Uganda’s best and most consistent midfielder for the last five years, Wasswa should be allowed time on the sidelines to get back to his best.

‘Baba’ Kizito and Aucho should are fresh enough and have the legs to protect the back four at the same time helping Mawejje to do his box-to-box runs that produced two goals against Liberia and Angola last year.

Micho has his tough choices in central defence whether to start an Andy Mwesigwa who will have arrived in the country just 24 hours to the game, or Henry Kalungi – who partnered the Cranes skipper in the first leg, and Isaac Isinde. The latter pair have worked together since Madagascar.

But where he must show his absolute resoluteness is in attack. He must not leave the ship in the harbour. Micho must use his attackers because while Uganda need to keep it tight at the back, their best chances to avoid any embarrassment that comes with preliminary elimination are in getting those goals.

A 1-0 victory is needed or Uganda will need to score three if the visitors happen to score. That is why he must start with three attackers. He will need to first seriously assess Vietnam-based Moses Oloya, who joined camp on Wednesday, to see whether he is in the right shape of mind to not only start, but deliver the goods from the right flank.

But with the goals urgency, you would have Emmanuel Okwi drifting from the left and Geoffrey Massa from the right, with Kiiza, who scored that invaluable away goal, as the main man, or Kiiza swapping with Massa.

There is no doubting that Madagascar are capable of coming here and scoring, which in itself will see a mountain spring up in the middle of Namboole, thus the Cranes must close out the expected swift counter attacks.
Yet they must attack in numbers. And they must, for – as American writer Erica Jong tells us, the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more., @TheLoveDre on Twitter