Front foot forward approach backfires

Attacking Mindset. Crested Cranes Fauziah Najjemba drives forward against Morocco on Tuesday night. Uganda had their own fair share of chances to score more than once but were never able to convert. PHOTO/AWCON MEDIA

What you need to know:

  • The struggles of Uganda’s defence were well documented even before the tournament. Centre-backs Margaret Namirimu and Aisha Nantongo had convinced during the Cecafa Women Championship home triumph.
  • Thinking Ahead. Coach George Lutalo avoided the postmortems in his press conferences and instead continued to rally the country for ‘belief and support until our journey in the tournament ends’.

Crested Cranes have managed to convince due to their fighting spirit without necessarily securing results at the Women Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco.
The Group A side have played two matches with one to come tomorrow but have lost both, conceded five goals and scored just once from the most unlikely of sources – a free-kick converted by left-back Sumaya Komuntale.
The struggles of Uganda’s defence were well documented even before the tournament. Centre-backs Margaret Namirimu and Aisha Nantongo had convinced during the Cecafa Women Championship home triumph.

But Namirimu is just coming into the national team set up. Nantongo is a good ball distributor but error-prone.
The senior presence, Yudaya Nakayenze, who was coming to back them up has been a utility player for Lindsey Wilson University in USA while Asia Nakibuuka is no natural right-back even though she has so far done her reputation no harm in the role.
Komuntale is the only left-back that Uganda carried to the competition and she is suspended for tomorrow’s decisive encounter against Burkina Faso. So in all ways, Lutalo has to ring changes for a third time in three games.

Defensive lapses
Three of the goals conceded have come from the spot. The one against Senegal could be avoided as Nantongo lunged in on Hapsatou Diallo while the ones against Morocco were harsh from a Ugandan perspective but also speak of the experience of Tottenham forward Rosella Ayane in turning situations to her advantage. 
The ball was gone when Namirimu naively caught Ayane in the box while Komuntale was completely in control when she was judged to have recklessly slapped the same player late in the second half. That said, none of the Ugandan forwards has so far put up their hand to be counted either.

Struggles in front of goal
Fazila Ikwaput and Sandra Nabweteme were convincing during Cecafa scoring five goals apiece but the former has had to share her minutes with Viola Nambi while the latter has had to fill in for Hasifah Nassuna in a creative midfield role. 
Nambi and her Europe-based counterpart Ritah Kivumbi have also struggled to come alive at the tournament despite showing promise in a build-up game against Zambia.
Coach George Lutalo has avoided the postmortems in his press conferences and instead continued to rally the country for “belief and support until our journey in the tournament comes to an end” while also commending his players “for showing that fighting spirit at this level,” which he said was far higher than Cecafa.

Squad depth
However, he now needs to use his bench a lot more to manage the game. Uganda have been caught out twice trying to chase the game with tired bodies. Nakayenze attempted to play the ball back to Nantongo without scanning her surroundings and Senegal broke away to extend their lead.
Joan Nabirye’s 69th minute tackle on Sannaa Mssoudy, who had just been introduced eight minutes earlier by Morocco’s coach Reynald Pedros for the highly rated Salma Amani, was unnecessary but the kind of challenge thrown in by a fatigued player. 
Lutalo had options like Tracy Jones Akiror, Riticia Nabbosa and Sheebah Zalwango as options he could have used in both situations to lessen the pressure on Nabirye.

No lessons taken
Senegal showed Uganda that games can be won comfortably even in difficult situations where the opponent has most of the ball like Crested Cranes did with over 55 percent of possession.
Morocco enjoyed over 63 percent possession but Uganda did not show any signs of having learned from the patience that the Senegalese espoused in the opener.   
And that ability to make use of the entire team; making the right changes at the right time could be the reason Pedros has won two French league and as many Uefa Champions League titles with Lyon between 2017 and 2019. 

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