In case there were any doubts about who the prime target in the gun sights of the Uganda Cranes snipers should be, well, it is the Comoros Islands.
Of course the time-tested and familiar tune in campaigns like these is that every game is as crucial as it is winnable, and that the next one is always paramount, but that is the idealistic standpoint of those nations for whom qualifying has become a bare minimum.
It is not a luxury that can be accorded a country that will have been absent for one year short of 40 by the time the next finals come around in 2017, one that cannot afford to conform with stereotype but instead needs smart strategy and clear priorities.
That strategy I have insisted severally this time round should be to single out the minnows and go for the jugular, not with unjustified arrogance but with a single-minded sense of purpose. They are not necessarily soft targets, but for qualification to happen they are the ones that must be primed for a kill. No two ways about it.
Collecting points away from home has been a mission near impossible over the years, and yet in a four-team group there is no qualifying without some; a maximum haul on home turf is just not adequate enough.
Given trips to Burkina Faso, Botswana and the Comoros, it is from the latter that one should envisage a realistic shot at garnering all three points. Indeed, home and away victories over the islanders, a feat the Cranes have only managed on ultimately inconsequential occasions few and far between (Guinea Bissau 2011 comes to mind), would this time firmly put one gigantic Ugandan foot through the AFCON door.
The Comoros cannot be disparaged but must be besieged, the assault not gung-ho but intelligent.
Coming from one with his modesty, the recent declaration from Farouk Miya on these pages that he didn’t know anything about the Comoros was more honest than condescending; but those above him tasked with doing the homework have got to have done so by now, well beyond just the ‘discovery’ that the Comoros play on Astro Turf as opposed to natural grass, one that prompted an acclimatisation camp at Njeru.
The current Cranes team is virtually self-picking, with the back-to-front spine of Dennis Onyango, Isaac Isinde, Khalid Aucho, Kizito Luwagga, Miya and Geoffrey Massa well established.
While that is to Micho Sredojevic’s credit, he must not succumb to the temptation to re-invent the wheel in Moroni, a notion that is not at all far-fetched where he is concerned if you are an experienced observer.
The details are of extreme importance but the overall tactical approach quite basic – focused defending, the high press, quick and concise counterattacking and precise set piece execution (not rocket science that); and since motivation and incentive have been factored out of the equation by all those Museveni dollars, the most critical facet of preparations must be the mental – both the mindset and a grasp of the demands of this particular game in light of the group’s dynamics.
Football being what it is, the Cranes could do it the hard way and instead roll over Burkina Faso on the way to eventual qualification; but since flowery fairytales and the big scalps when it really matters have not been part of the script for decades on end, in Uganda’s real world it is the Comoros and the like that must be devoured.
Taking six points into that double header with the group favourites next March will do a world of good, mathematically and psychologically.