Sunday July 27 2014

Cranes: a dose of adaptability is what the doctor ordered

Uganda’s national football team, The Cranes, will next weekend take a 2-0 lead to the West African country of Mauritania. The lead, barring a disaster of epic proportions, should be sizeable enough to see Uganda join Ghana, Togo and Guinea in a tough 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying group.
Whether Cranes will be able to end a 36-year-long Afcon drought by finishing in the top two echelons of that group remains to be seen.
There has been a subtle melancholic streak about The Cranes under the stewardship of Serbian coach, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic.
While optimists have described Micho’s Cranes outfit as efficient, pessimists have been much more stingy as shown by the pejoratives they have ascribed the national team.
Watching Micho’s charges in action, the pessimists have said, is no different from fixating your gaze on paint drying. Cranes players looked set to add to their growing list of snore-fests last weekend when they huffed and puffed to a goalless first half.
There were shades of the soporific showings in friendly ties against Seychelles and Malawi. Well, until the introduction of ebullient winger, Brian Majwega, added zest to Uganda’s attack.
It was nonetheless a performance with such low Box Office impact. It could in part explain why fans no longer throng the Mandela National Stadium at Namboole during Cranes match-days.
Industry is always in scant supply. The identity that the team currently commands is one of directness. This is pretty much couched in the team’s archetypal wing play as seen in the goals that Majwega and striker Geoffrey Massa netted.
Majwega’s goal was a by-product of passes that Farouk Miya swapped with right fullback Dennis Iguma. The latter centred for Majwega to break the deadlock and evoke a collective sigh from the Namboole crowd. Massa’s goal was a marginally better carbon copy. It saw Majwega and left fullback Godfrey Walusimbi exchange passes. Walusimbi then brilliantly played in Massa, who dummied the keeper before finding the onion bag with a composed finish.
A conventional approach such as the one that led to The Cranes’ second-half resuscitation is not one to be ashamed of. It has, however, done little to shake off that ‘one dimensional’ stereotype Uganda has been assigned for awhile now.
Football keeps evolving, but The Cranes always seem to be held up in a time warp. This lack of adaptability is what has time and again seen The Cranes run into a brick wall – well at least during Afcon and World Cup qualifiers.
The Cranes need to be a little more streetwise if they intend to go places. The team doesn’t need to keep itself in a tactical straitjacket. It needs to adjust according to situations. That is what distinguishes a good team from the pile – and certainly doesn’t make winning away from home look incredibly difficult.