Cranes players promise to leave all on the pitch

Cranes coach Micho might have some big calls to make. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

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The two faced off at the Suez Canal Authority Stadium, the same venue for Friday’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying match against Tanzania. 

He already knows his team, but Uganda Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic will have had more clarity of how he will set up against Tanzania on Friday following last evening’s friendly against Egyptian side Ismaily SC.

The two faced off at the Suez Canal Authority Stadium, the same venue for Friday’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying match against Tanzania. 

Uganda won that one 3-1,  Fahad Bayo, Rogers Mato and Richard Basangwa scoring for the Cranes.

Egyptian connection

One of those that featured last evening, and one who is likely to get the nod on Friday is youngster Gavin Mugweri Kizito, who plays his football in Egypt with Al Ittihad Alexandria SC.

“It feels great to be back in the national team and the task we have is a tough one,” said Kizito, 21, from their camp in Egypt.

“But for me and my fellow players, we shall do our very best to get the results that we want. I will do my very best to get the best result if given a chance to start by the coach.”

Kizito’s sentiments were echoed by striker Steven Mukwala and versatile Joseph Ochaya in the latter duo’s interviews with the Daily Monitor early this week. 

The defender can play in central defence and right back, and playing his football in Egypt, venue for Friday’s clash, gives him an added advantage to be considered by Micho.

Ochaya (Al Mokawloon Al Arab SC) and Basangwa (Wadi Degla SC) are the other Cranes players on the team that play their club football in Egypt.

Meanwhile, Cranes captain Emmanuel Okwi (Iraq), Farouk Miya (Turkey), Steven Sserwadda(USA) and Isma Mugulusi (Greece) all joined the team in Egypt from their respective clubs yesterday.

Okwi did not waste time in emphasising the significance of the games against Tanzania.

"Definitely the target is to get positive results off Tanzania in order to achieve our target of qualifying for Afcon," said the captain, "The players, coaches and everyone is committed towards this."

Uganda started their road to Ivory Coast quite poorly, losing 2-0 to leaders Algeria and drawing at home goalless with Niger.

As such, they are rooted at the base of Group F with one point, with Algeria topping on six. Niger are second with two points, followed by Tanzania.

Financial lift 

Uganda need to at least avoid defeat in the two matches against Tanzania as Algeria and Niger also go at each other in another set of back-to-back matches. 

Elsewhere, the Taifa Stars were given a boost after their government promised them Tanzanian Shillings 500m, an estimated equivalent of Uganda Shillings 800m, if they qualify for Afcon finals. 

Their Minister of Culture, Arts and Sports, Dr. Pindi Chana, rallied the Taifa Stars fans “to come in large numbers even on the day of the return match because they are number 12 players and their presence is a comfort for our players.”

Back home, Cranes sponsors MTN also staked Shs1.5m each for the Cranes players if they beat Tanzania this week, with an additional Shs2m for the player of the match as voted for by fans.