Tomorrow will significantly dictate Uganda’s direction at the sixth edition of the African Nations Championship (Chan) finals in Cameroon.
Coach Johnny McKinstry and his home-based players should perhaps plug into Eminem’s Lose Yourself to psych themselves up for the job at hand.
“Look,” goes the American rapper, “If you had one shot, or one opportunity... To seize everything you ever wanted...
“In one moment... Would you capture it or just let it slip?”
Tomorrow’s crunch Group C game against Chan debutants, Togo - who will also be looking for a lease of life after going down to Morocco in their opener - is that one opportunity.
The Cranes, who drew goalless with Rwanda on Monday night, must win if they are to go into the final group game against defending champions Morocco next week with a big chance of progressing.
And for that to happen McKinstry will need his best players to come to the party.
The 35-year coach, whose experience of leading Rwanda to the Chan quarterfinals in 2016 is vital, is expected to make significant changes from the team that started against the Amavubi Stars on Monday.
A big headache in central defence awaits McKinstry, who welcomes back from injury captain Halid Lwaliwa.
Mustafa Mujuzi stepped in alongside impressive Paul Mbowa with a Cranes Man of the Man performance on Monday, with a strained hamstring keeping Lwaliwa out. Lwaliwa has since trained well and McKinstry believes he has shaken off the strain.
“Hamstrings,” said McKinstry, “Are one of those injuries that if you rush a player back, maybe they get a bigger injury and that rules them out for a longer time. “That’s why we protected him in the first game. But we are hopeful in the coming game that he will be ready.”
Midfield and attack, which struggled to get moving against Rwanda, are the other areas McKinstry is likely to tweak.
Shafiq Kagimu, sitting in front of the back four, and Karim Watambala and Bright Anukani, looked to have been overwhelmed by the occasion in the first 45 minutes on Monday.
McKinstry himself admitted as much. It was until he introduced experienced Tonny Mawejje for Anukani and Ben Ocen for left winger Viane Ssekajugo that the Cranes displayed some calm and structure after the break.
“We feel both Mawejje and Ben Ocen had a positive impact,” said McKinstry.
With little margin of error against Togo, McKinstry could call on Mawejje to steer the youngsters in the middle of the park from onset. Mawejje and Saidi Kyeyune, who sat out Monday, could take over slots in the midfield at the possible expense of Kagimu and Anukani or Karim Watambala.
With Milton Karisa, who was stretchered off injured after 14 minutes against Rwanda, not expected to be fit for this one, a change in attack is straightforward. “Brian (Aheebwa) has had fantastic start to the season,” said McKinstry of the man who replaced Karisa.
The KCCA striker has scored 10 goals in five matches for his club.
“And that’s ultimately why, when Milton got injured, it was a pretty straightforward decision to make, the guy in-form had to come in.”
Victory for Uganda over Togo will move the Cranes to four points and end the West Africans’ interest in the tournament. The group is still wide open, and depending on the results tomorrow, it could go down to the last minute of the final pool match. Uganda are desperate to progress from the group for the first time in five attempts, pressure that McKinstry is well aware of.
Uganda 0-0 Rwanda
Morocco 1-0 Togo
Tuesday, Group D results
Zambia 2-0 Tanzania
Guinea 3-0 Namibia
Next group games
Morocco vs. Rwanda, 7pm
Uganda vs. Togo, 10pm
Uganda vs. Morocco, 10pm
Togo vs. Rwanda, 10pm
Today, Group B games
Libya vs. DRC, 7pm
Congo vs. Niger, 10pm
(LIVE on StarTimes, KBC)