Desabre Sebastien was welcomed to the Uganda Cranes’ coaching role with well-weighted criticism which did not fade away even after a 289-day wait for his first competitive victory last year.
Then the 3-0 loss away to Tanzania in the last qualification match in March seemed to crumble the cards he had piled on the base of an unusual early ticket to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
However, the Frenchman prefers to speak with action. Desabre stuck to his ilk which earned Uganda her first win at the Afcon in 41 years after a 2-0 Group A opening win over DR Congo at Cairo International Stadium on Saturday.
“We are very happy to start the competition with a win and two goals against a good team,” Desabre said during the post-match press conference.
He now seems to have found his groove nearly 18 months since taking up his first national team job. “In the second half, they (DR Congo) were clever and tried to put a long ball but we are very happy and I am proud of my players.”
Strikes from Patrick Kaddu and Emmanuel Okwi gave Uganda its first Afcon victory since defeating Nigeria 2-1 at the 1978 Afcon semi-finals in Kumasi, Ghana.
Desabre took only 13 players from the lot that played at the previous edition in Gabon two years ago and his decisions were vindicated across the board.
“We showed that we have cohesion and are united. We beat Ivory Coast (last weekend) and now DR Congo, these are two big teams. Each game is very difficult for us. Our objective is to get out of the group,” the 42-year-old offered.
At the heart of the midfield, Desabre started Khalid Aucho alongside Mike Azira, who had been deployed as a winger in Gabon.
Azira, who had had his shot kiss the cross bar towards half-time, maintained team balance which allowed the players on the offensive to receive supply consistently.
The Montreal Impact player as well minimised gaps for counter-attack threats, resulting into Uganda’s first clean sheet at Afcon since defeating Morocco 3-0 on March 11, 1978.
Exciting winger Abdul Lumala thrilled many in the stadium and back home on television with his industry and he received solid back-up from Bevis Mugabi, both relishing competitive Cranes’ debuts off the right flank.
Lumala’s earlier act earned Uganda a corner-kick which Farouk Miya delivered for Kaddu to nod in at near-post after 14 minutes.
It was Kaddu’s second goal for Cranes after the winner against Cape Verde in November and it appears that he only scores important goals.
Desabre has since stuck with the KCCA FC forward to lead his line at the expense of foreign-based options like Derrick Nsibambi, Edrisa Lubega, Muhammad Shaban, Yunus Ssentamu and Alexis Bakka among others.
Okwi, who had been interestingly dropped for Gabon, also repaid the faith with a pivotal header off Miya’s free-kick three minutes into the second stanza.
“It is not about individuals but our target was to work together as a team and get the best results possible,” remarked Okwi after picking his man-of-match award.
It is clear that Desabre is now fully in charge.
UGANDA’S WINS AT AFCON
March 6, 1978: Uganda 3-1 Congo
March 11, 1978: Uganda 3-0 Morocco
March 14, 1978: Uganda 2-1 Nigeria
June 22, 2019: Uganda 2-0 DR Congo