At the final whistle on Wednesday, the mood was not one of relief because the Uganda Cranes hadn’t lost but regret because we didn’t punish the Stallions of Burkina Faso, who were there for the taking in a game they didn’t need to win.
Ibrahim Orit planted a header against the woodwork and Faruku Miya was denied by fingertips. And that was it. Which is lamentable, because from the onset the visitors, strategy was to sit back so much that Denis Onyango could have played the entire game lying on a beach towel beneath an umbrella.
Yet we preferred caution to ambition. And I do appreciate that over the last three years, two anchor men have served us well. But it doesn’t have to be our default setting. Not at home or in games we need to win.
This was a game in which Moses Waiswa’s creativity deserved much more than the 45 minutes it got. Yes, we still didn’t concede, but no one present could claim we did enough to win. Now we have a banana skin from a game away in Malawi on Monday.
And that game undoubtedly raises the ghosts of apprehension we are all familiar with. But the last thing we should allow to creep up on us are memories of the doomed campaign of 2011.
We might have the unfortunate distraction of player indiscipline like we did then, but this Cranes outfit is more prepped and experienced. That is why we have been to wo straight Afcons or conceded just once in the campaign so far.
Strangely, it also helps that we shall be away because the one thing the pandemic has thrown at football is to neuter the so-called home advantage.
Without the din of fans whose sheer force of willpower is sometimes known to ‘suck in’ goals, home teams are bereft of any psychological advantages generated by the 12th player as home fans are normally referred to.
And just like was the case for us at Kitende, Malawi will be left to their own devices - instructions shouted from the bench or on-field, cajoling them to keep shape.
In such circumstances, I honestly fancy us over Malawi. Good enough, over the last couple of years, it has always suited us to play away like we did at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende, with two anchors springing attacks from deep - our go to formation and comfort zone.
On the evidence of last Wednesday, Moses Waiswa’s spatial awareness and passing range places him above either Mike Azira or Taddeo Lwanga. The latter will most likely partner him seeing that he is in immaculate form for club and country, even if he is always a suspension waiting to happen – a risk I suspect interim head coach Abdallah Mubiru will still take as was the case for 75 minutes at Kitende.
On then to the frontline for which many amongst us on Wednesday questioned why Coach Mubiru abandoned his typical expansive style of play in a home game we needed to win.
But the circumstances have flipped now. It will be a game for those ready to defend from the front and our entire front four did that job effectively. We will therefore line up similarly save for Abdu Lumala who was obviously unfit and Patrick Kaddu who got injured.
We saw what Ibrahim Orit and Fahad Bayo brought to the fray thereafter – decent but hardly inspirational. So maybe either Allan Okello or Kizito Luwagga and Allan Kyambadde or Yunus Ssentamu will get their chance. Regardless, I feel we are good for a draw which is enough for qualification.