KAMPALA- As his teammates rammed into barricades in the goalless friendly against Malawi Tuesday at Namboole, Emmanuel Okwi and a few of his unused colleagues followed proceedings from the stands.
This was the second time the Yanga striker was sitting out a Cranes game having also watched from the stands the 1-0 friendly victory over Seychelles last Friday.
Both the player and Cranes coaching staff say Okwi – who personally told coach Micho Sredojevic minutes before the Serb named the starting X1 against Seychelles, and long before Malawi, that he was not in fine shape mentally and physically - missed because he was recovering from malaria.
His absence did not help the already struggling Cranes in front of goal, nor did it help Micho - who was using the friendly to get a clear picture of how they would line up against Mauritania in the first leg of the 2015 Nations Cup pre-qualifier on Saturday.
“I had fever last Friday and was still weak by the time we played Malawi,” Okwi told us, “But now I’m fine.”
Late fitness test
It will not have helped Okwi himself; the player having put up a display to forget on May 31 when Uganda gritted out a 1-0 victory over Madagascar to progress 2-2 on aggregate to this final round of preliminary qualifiers.
“He (Okwi) will need to pass a late test of being ready to be in final 18,” Micho told Daily Monitor ahead of last evening’s training at Namboole.
“With me there is sporting logic behind each decision and Emma Okwi has just two training sessions to convince me in readiness.”
Micho is also understood to have doubts over Okwi’s effectiveness and sharpness especially after the striker’s poor performance against Madagascar and not playing against Seychelles and Malawi.
“But I don’t exclude late inclusion,” assures Micho, “All technical decisions I make are informed by justification.” By last evening, however, there were no injury worries in the Cranes camp.
Meanwhile, Mauritania coach Patrice Neveu is optimistic ahead of the tie. “We’ve played against Uganda before and lost to them 3-0 (friendly in January),” said Neveu after Wednesday training at KCC’s Lugogo Stadium.
“But we have improved a great deal since and we are now a different team and we are confident we can get a good result.” The team had their second successive training session at Lugogo last evening.