Cranes, Put get mixed reviews on home return

Colourful fans cheered the national team. 

What you need to know:

With the avalanche of playmakers at his disposal, the Zebras were supposed to be butchered at Namboole Stadium on June 7. 

Uganda Cranes Belgian coach Paul Put, seemingly in full control, utilised this month's 2026 World Cup qualifying window to integrate and test new talent. 

About five debutants got maiden chances against Botswana and Algeria - although Cranes remained work in progress.

The World Cup maiden appearance remains a distant dream for Group G fifth-placed Uganda that has six points from four matches yet Put experimenting with the Cranes has just started. 

Here in, SCORE takes a cursory analysis of Put's standout selections that left monumental lessons about his ambitious Cranes rebuilding project. 

Two number 10s vs. Botswana 

With the avalanche of playmakers at his disposal, the Zebras were supposed to be butchered at Namboole Stadium on June 7. 

Instead, all Cranes mastered against Botswana was a 1-0 hard earned win. 

None of the two starting 'number tens' -Travis Mutyaba or Allan Okello - scored or impressed in what resembled like mixed up roles. 

Playmaker Travis Mutyaba must have a go at the Algeria defence. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

Okello, who constantly ran into Mutyaba's path, was whisked off early in the second half for speed merchant Rogers Mato as Put ran out of patience.

It was a gamble that never paid off to an extent of Okello missing the Algeria match while Mutyaba scored and dazzled in the first half before he went AWOL in the second. 

As Cranes lost 2-1 to the resolute North Africans, Put tried to throw on another set of 'number tens' - Ibrahim Kasule and Patrick Kakande - in the dying minutes but the damage had already been done. 

Mato playing on arrival 

Put had told all and sundry how he intended not to include in his plans later comers. 

Looking straight into the cameras at Fufa Complex a day before the Botswana match, Put revealed how it was humanly 'impossible' for the AP Brera Strumica forward to play. 

He reportedly had travel documents issues from Macedonia to Turkey and enroute to Uganda that took Fufa time to sort. 

Mato, formerly with Proline and KCCA, reportedly arrived in the morning on match day and left many in total awe when he came on for Okello about eight hours later. 

Now that was sheer trust from Put although Mato didn't out rightly repay it. 

In the Botswana game, he had a chance to make a simple cutback to an unmarked Mutyaba but chose to shoot while against Algeria, when he started on the left flank, he lost possession that led to the first goal that Cranes conceded. 

In the next Cranes engagement, Put may be forced to choose between Mato's pace and directness or Kakande or Kasule's trickery and unpredictability. 

Ssemakula in midfield

For starters, injured skipper Khalid Aucho was never dearly missed because Put had the abundant tools to replace him at the heart of midfield. 

Only that he didn't how. He transplanted the midfield duo of Ronald Ssekiganda and Kenneth Ssemakula that granted SC Villa the 17th league title into the Cranes starting lineup against Botswana. 

Uganda Cranes players (L-R) Joel Sserunjogi, Muhammad Shaban and Denis Omedi. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

The chemistry didn't work out at the grand stage before the vociferous Namboole crowd with Ssemakula mischewing passes and often caught out of play. 

He only looked comfortable when he was sent at right back to replace an ineffective Elvis Bwomono as Cranes elected to jealously guard the 1-0 lead. 

Once bitten twice shy, Put went for Bobosi Byaruhanga against the Algerians but he too left a lot to be desired. 

KCCA teen midfielder Joel Sserunjogi was a viable alternative that Put choose to sparingly employ. 

Shaban as a sub 

For some reason, Put maintained Fahad Bayo as his lone ranger in the two matches, never mind his limited contribution. 

Playing for MFK Vyškov in Czech, Bayo looked rusty against Botswana and was completely lost in the 57 minutes he played against Algeria with zero shots on goal. 

KCCA forward Muhammad Shaban replaced him in the first game and expertly netted the winner but it took Put a longer thought to throw him on Monday. 

As the well punctuated 17 league goals can attest, Shaban is at his sharpest when he starts the game, nags defenders, gets the referee's attention and establishes rapport with assist providers. 

Treat Shaban right, wait for goals in glutes, Mr Put. 

Full Ssekiganda

It was his moment in the sun and he took it open hands.

 Not as commanding as he is in the blue Villa stripes but the lean midfielder executed his assignment diligently against Botswana. 

Against the Algerian lauded midfield trio on Hossein Aouor, Nabil Bentaleb and Ismail Bennacer, he was a tad too slow and understandably a bit scared, but he valiantly fought on. 

Regardless, Ssekiganda had Put's monk faith and he left a lasting impression amongst the fans that are labouring to familiarize with the new-look Cranes. 

Carpradossi who? 

Lecco defender Elio Carpradossi left Ugandans with a heavy duty of pronouncing his 'Italian' name right. 

But for now they can't avoid calling it out in all accents after he surpassed their expectations with a composed and spirited Cranes debut. 

His dad Corradi Carpradossi was proudly in attendance and invisaged more memorable moments for his 27-year-old son with the Cranes. 

Fans are sending a clear message. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

His 6'1 frame offered aerial presence in defence and his calmness offered Cranes a rare attribute of building attacks from the back. 

Whereas Put indicated he need more groomed players like Carpradossi from diaspora to galvanize Cranes, he has a burning task at hand to get him a reliable defensive partner. 

After a seemingly solid partnership against Botswana, Halid Lwaliwa exploded under the Algerian siege which forced Put to throw on Timothy Awany, whose work ethic and gusto is also gradually waning. 

Mutyaba reign

Having featured for the Uganda U-15, U-17, U-20 and U-23, Mutyaba is now the shinning diamond of the senior national team. 

The burden of expectation seems too heavy on his tender shoulders but his exquisite goal against the Algeria shows the Zamalek deft playmaker is up to the task. 

He still has rough edges in his game but remains arguably the only player guaranteed of a starting berth at Cranes. 

Capradossi was impregnable. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

Luckily, Put knows his potential and at all training sessions, the 68-year-old globe trodden gaffer protects and associates with Mutyaba like his son. 

Like Mutyaba, Cranes rebuilding is still at its infancy but laden with loads of potential to break barriers.