KAMPALA- Bring on the Ivorians. That is the self-assured phrase that reverberates from the Uganda Sand Cranes camp at Hibis Hotel in Entebbe hours to the mouth-watering Afcon Beach Soccer Qualifying tie with Ivory Coast at Spennah Beach.
If anything, Thursday’s last friendly match against a league select side showed that Sand Cranes coach Salim Jamal Muwonge had honed his side into the counterattacking outfit he wants them to be. Forwards Roch Somoka, Douglas Muganga, Swaib Kakwaya and Peter Lule were at their devastating best as the national team won 10-7 at Spennah Beach.
“The trial match helped me to assess how far we have reached in terms of preparations ahead of the Ivory Coast test. It helped us identify points of weakness and see how we can improve plus perfecting on our strong areas especially in the goal scoring setup,” Muwonge told Sunday Monitor.
The major difference between the current Sand Cranes and the one that lost to Ghana back in 2015 at the same stage is the stiff competition for starting amongst the players.
“The match showed that the players’ performance have improved and there was a battle for slots since each player is given an opportunity to showcase what he does best in buildup matches. “We are not afraid of any challenges. We are eyeing for the final tourney,” revealed team skipper Somoka. Like current African champions Senegal, Ivory Coast plays a physical game laden with long shots.
Led by coach Lohognon Soro, the Ivorians that finished 11th at the 2009 Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup and were runners up in the Caf Beach Soccer Championship the same year, are the hot favourites. The first leg match will be handled by Madagascan match officials.
The overall winner after the return leg on September 21 in Ivory Coast will qualify for finals scheduled for December 9-14 in Cairo, Egypt.