Take a chance on Cranes draw

Friday September 5 2014

Cranes will miss the services of Massa, who was not

Cranes will miss the services of Massa, who was not included in the team to play Ghana tomorrow. PHOTO BY EDDIE CHICCO 

By Mark Ssali

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS
Ghana vs Uganda
There is no point in reeling off a chronology of Ghana’s pre-eminence over Uganda here, except for those who might have checked into planet earth from outer orbit. In the football world, the West African nation simply has been superior.

On the contrary, Ugandans who are perennially low on self-belief (to be fair that is with good reason more often than not) need timely reminders of their own advantages, which are not too many in this case but all the same potentially significant.

Underdog status has always suited Uganda’s game more, with The Cranes operating more freely without the burden of expectation piled onto them. They are more likely to surprise with a goal and a result when the odds are stacked against them in the opener away to what has been Africa’s best team since the decline of Egypt, than if it is all they need to qualify, in the last game at home to a visibly weak Kenya Harambee Stars team.
Indeed, there have been a few such surprises against this very Ghana over the years. Under the circumstances, the loss to Niger in a trial match in midweek might actually be a good thing, the team cannot be under any illusions about their own strengths or the enormity of the challenge in Kumasi.

And, lest we forget, this stretch that dates back to the games against Madagascar and through the Mauritania clashes represents arguably Uganda’s best preparation period for any Afcon qualifiers ever, with longer training camps and more friendlies thrown in. Like it did against Mauritania at Namboole with a much improved group performance capped by a great team goal, it might count for something in Kumasi.

Forced absentees aside, the longer preparations mean that the team is largely self-picking now, from goal through the back four to a central midfield triangle (or mini diamond) of Kizito Baba and Khalid Aucho as the base and impressive newcomer Farouk Miya as the tip, behind a lone spearhead flanked by Moses Oloya and Kizito Luwagga on either side.

Because of his current good form and other attributes, that role of spearhead suits Brian Umwony better than it does Hamis Kiiza and Robert Ssentongo, both of whom can actually be options because of their work rate, the former out wide and the latter up top.

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It is imperative of course that coach Micho doesn’t tinker too much either because of putting too much thought into proceedings, or due to excitement. Simplicity and predictability can be a strength, as successful international teams of current times have proved.

If you are not a risk taker then the obvious call is a Ghana win, but for real betting men who live on the edge I would recommend a DRAW here. That is where the real money is anyway.

Group A
Sudan vs South Africa
Draw
Nigeria vs Congo
Home win

Group B
Ethiopia vs Algeria
Draw
Mali vs Malawi
Home win

Group C
Gabon vs Angola
Home win
Burkina Faso vs Lesotho
Home win & Over

Group D
DR Congo vs Cameroon
Home win
Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone
Home win & Over

Group E
Guinea vs Togo
Draw

Group F
Zambia vs Mozambique
Home win
Niger vs Cape Verde
Draw

Group G
Senegal vs Egypt
Home win
Tunisia vs Botswana
Home win

EURO QUALIFIERS

Sunday
Germany vs Scotland
The world champions are fresh from a mauling by Argentina, the team they beat in the final to lift the World Cup in Brazil, but Scotland can find no comfort in that.

That loss has perhaps even jolted the Germans out of some subconscious complacency even if they would never admit to it, and now with the business of qualifying for another major tournament back, they are bound to get serious. Besides, the Germany line-up will as a matter of fact have a more familiar look to it than the experimental side put out by Joachim Low on Wednesday night.
Home win & Over

Georgia vs Ireland
Draw
Hungary vs Northern Ireland
Home win
Denmark vs Armenia
Home win
Gibraltar vs Poland
Away win
Faroe Islands vs Finland
Away win
Portugal vs Albania
Home win & Over

Monday
Spain vs Macedonia
Eager to put the nightmare of Brazil 2014 behind them, Spain are bound to kick start the campaign of retaining the European Championship crown in some earnest. It is the end of an era in many respects as there will be no Xavi and Xabi in the middle (what is Casillas still doing there I wonder), but there is a lot of old experience left, as well as several talented new faces. tiki-taka dead? I don’t think so.
Home win & Over

Russia vs Liechtenstein
Home win & Over
Luxembourg vs Belarus
Away win
Ukraine vs Slovakia
Draw
Switzerland vs England
Draw

Tuesday
Czech vs Netherlands
Away win
Iceland vs Turkey
Away win
Andorra vs Wales
Away win
Bosnia vs Cyprus
Home win & Over
Croatia vs Malta
Home win & Over
Norway vs Italy
Away win

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLIES

Saturday
Brazil vs Colombia
The roughhouse tactics Brazil used against Colombia in the quarterfinals of the World Cup left a bad taste, but they are not bound to repeat them now that Luis Felipe Scolari is gone and his replacement, Dunga, was one of the many critics on global television.

Colombia will still bring the talents of James Rodriguez (the target and victim of most of the flying kicks in that infamous match), as well as Juan Cuardado and the returning Radamel Falcao, but Dunga has freshened up Brazil with the likes of Miranda, Felipe Luis, Coutinho and Diego Tardelli. And he will encourage them to pass more and attack freely.
Home win

Sunday

Paraguay vs UAE
Home win & Over
Serbia vs France
Away win

ssalimark@gmail.com, @markssali on twitter