Azira, Aucho bring much needed calm

Tuesday June 25 2019

Midfield Maestros. A photo montage of Khalid

Midfield Maestros. A photo montage of Khalid Aucho (L) and Michael Azira during the Saturday game against Democratic Republic of Congo. Photos by John Batanudde. 

By Andrew Mwanguhya

One plays with as much calm as he speaks, the other; a bit playful but discreet enough to carry out misdemeanors without match officials notice.

The two, Michael Azira and Khalid Aucho, brought together their respective attributes against DRC on Saturday as they provided bullet proof cover for defence and unleashed unstoppable thrusts going forward.

Faruku Miya - Uganda’s most potent weapon going forward, and Afcon debutants and Congo’s tormentors Emmanuel Okwi and Patrick Kaddu rightly carried the weekend headlines.

A bag of dead balls
His all round game has improved cumulatively, but it’s Miya’s hugely improved dead ball specialty that broke up any Congolese plans and one that will worry Zimbabwe on Wednesday and Egypt on June 30.

Ley Matampi had to desperately tip over his dipping ball from the 18-yard area but the Congolese goalkeeper had no answer when Miya’s two deadballs were directed in by incisive Kaddu and Okwi’s headers. Yet behind all that sits Cranes headquarters commanded by Azira and Aucho.

Aucho has been the ever present in his role, with Hassan Wasswa - who put in a commendable shift alongside Murushid Juuko at the back, Tony Mawejje, Denis Iguma and Geoffrey Kizito all playing alongside him.
But when Azira was given a run out on the same pitch with Aucho at Afcon Gabon 2017, the Montreal midfielder was playing in his less favoured left midfield.


Light at end of the tunnel
The abysmal playing time in 2017, despite the player playing regularly and impressively in the MLS, led Azira to seek assurances from the technical team at the end of the tournament whether they honestly trusted him. Here in Cairo, Azira believes he has finally landed his right job in national colours.

Yes it’s early days but he has demonstrated in friendlies before this tournament that he is the man Uganda need alongside Aucho.
And against DRC the two were admiringly telepathic, Azira calmly breaking any attampted Congolese plays and releasing teammates; and when Aucho was not disrupting the Leopards programs, he was testing Matampi the other end.

Finally, at least for now as the Cranes prepare for their second match against Zimbabwe tomorrow night, Uganda can be confident that Onyango has got the back covered, and Azira and Aucho can allow Miya, Okwi and Kaddu play with relish going forward.
And Azira hopes this new-found belief in him might just be the beginning of even greater things. “It’s a great feeling,” he told Daily Monitor, “I feel good to play for my country and to get the first win.”

The mindset
Asked whether himself and teammates surprised Congo or were stunned by coach Florent Ibenge’s boys display, Azira smiled, and then revealed his life principal.
“It’s about the mindset,” said the 31-year-old, “We had great preparations, and maybe they thought they were superior than us before the match.

“That’s why we should also not get carried away. It’s not over yet. We still need results against Zimbabwe and then Egypt.”
Uganda go into their match against the Warriors tomorrow needing at least a point to possibly confirm their progression to the last 16. The Cranes top Group A with three points.