Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.
That must have been at the back of coach Ayub Khalifa as he made the final call on who would represent Uganda in tomorrow’s first leg of the second round in the Fifa U-20 Women World Cup against Kenya in Nairobi.
Out of the 20 players summoned, 16 worked directly with Khalifa at U-17 level in 2019 and last year as they won the Cosafa and Cecafa U-17 camps before embarking on a journey to qualify for the age group’s World Cup. The campaign ended unsuccessfully as Covid-19 wiped out their final qualification round tie against Cameroon.
In the squad announced on Wednesday night before the team flew out on early yesterday, Khalifa stuck to goalkeepers Daphine Nyayenga and Joan Namusisi.
Familiar back four
In defence, the back four of Samalie Nakacwa, Sumaya Komuntale, Grace Aluka and Biira Naddunga will suffice. Aluka previously replaced a then injured Stella Musubika in the U-17 squad but while the latter has since struggled to impress despite her range of passing, Aluka’s physicality and dead-ball expertise are qualities Khalifa could do with against Kenya.
Musubika has been replaced by her Kawempe Muslim teammate Aisha Nantongo, who should provide cover across the backline and shore things out if need be.
Khalifa was part of the two-month-long Lady Doves camp as they prepared for the Caf Women’s Champions League qualifiers, from where he liked the look of Halima Kanyago at right back.
And although she’s seen as a midfielder at club level, there is no surprise he has included her as a defender probably at the expense of her Uganda Martyrs High School (UMHS) captain Gloria Namugerwa, with whom she was loaned to Doves for the qualifiers.
Despite featuring prominently in the friendly matches against senior team Crested Cranes - also in camp preparing for the Cosafa Championships, there was no place for Lillian Mutuuzo in midfield.
She was never going to displace Margaret Kunihira on the right wing. And with striker Juliet Nalukenge belatedly called to camp, captain Fauzia Najjemba will now surely occupy the other wing as they did in the U-17 team.
Khalifa also stuck to his squad players like Zaina Nandede and Zaituni Namaganda.
The central midfield roles will be occupied by the Kawempe duo of Shakirah Nyinagahirwa and Shamirah Nalugya plus Kevin Nakacwa, who could be deputized by her versatile UMHS teammate Catherine Nagadya.
Hadijah Nandago is in the team as an impact forward and will be joined by Lady Doves’ Joweria Nagadya and Rines SS striker Eva Naggayi.
U20- final squad
Daphine Nyayenga (Lady Doves),
Joan Namusisi (Kampala Queens)
Defenders: Sumayah Komuntale (Tooro Queens),
Grace Aluka, Biira Nadunga (Olila HS), Samalie Nakacwa, Aisha Nantongo (Kawempe Muslim),
Halima Kanyago (Lady Doves)
Midfielders: Shamirah Nalugya, Shakirah Nyinagahirwa, Margaret Kunihira (Kawempe Muslim),
Zaina Nandede (Kataka SHE), Catherine Nagadya, Kevin Nakacwa (Uganda Martyrs HS),
Zaituni Namaganda (Taggy HS)
Forwards: Fauzia Najjemba (Kampala Queens), Hadijah Nandago (Kawempe Muslim), Juliet Nalukenge(Apollon Ladies - Cyprus), Joweria Nagadya (Lady Doves), Eva Naggayi (Rines SS)