Vipers SC are only 180 minutes away from getting into the Caf Champions money league, a feat that would pour Shs2b into their coffers. It is early days but having failed to get past this stage in their two previous attempts, the knocking out of Sudanese giants Al Merriekh last Wednesday earns them the right to dream.
For Vipers SC it will be a long week and one during which they should banish any fears they may harbour for their next opponents - Algerian outfit CS Constantine.
They have earned the right to be here and at this swim-or-sink stage, where the margins of error are slim, it hardly matters that their triumph over Al Merriekh was more brawn than brain.
Can they pull it off? On the evidence of the Al Merriekh second leg, the answer to that isn’t straight forward. Vipers needed a second half goal from Abraham Ndugwa on to which they hang for dear life.
To be honest, it was far from the kind of game that has confidence spilling out of one’s ears. But tactician Javier Martinez Espinoza says this approach was deliberate and will be their go-to strategy even against CS Constantine. To quote him; “We know this is Champions League. You are not going to score 6-0”. “We will try to score away and manage it at home.”
With the first leg of their next qualification round being away, I have no reason to distrust his judgement. This might be continental competition, but practice makes perfect and he has the resources to execute this.
Should players like Dan Sserunkuma reproduce the form that saw him poach a vital away goal as he did against Al Merriekh, it sets up a return leg in which Vipers SC can summon all the qualities that have helped them boss local competition.
That, however, should not mask the fact that Vipers’ inexperience on the continent is always going to tell. This was demonstrated when a general lack of a killer instinct during the Al Merriekh game could have extinguished their dream in its infancy. They rode their luck, but more seasoned players would know that margins are slim, and a lack of decisiveness can be fatal.
With that in mind, Vipers SC should expect that CS Constantine will attempt to out-think them. The Algerians are traditionally patient in approach, favoring the quick movement and passing game, that is the bedrock of Maghreb footballing education.
This would mean that the obvious strategy for Vipers SC is one their Manager has already endeared them to already.
Deploying high-energy and unremitting pressure tactics, will not only tire their less physical opponents, but also force them into making mistakes. And should Vipers SC punish any such errors they will stand a chance to emulate what KCCA FC did to Al-Masry in 2017.
On that note, I have a good feeling about this one and do sincerely hope Vipers SC can go on to qualify and further boost Uganda’s rising standing in continental football.