Khalifa rallies U-20 women as S. Africa looms large

Tuesday October 12 2021
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Ecstasy. Nalukenge hammered the final nail. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE

By Makhtum Muziransa

 Uganda Women U-20 coach Ayub Khalifa believe his team can perform better than they did in beating Kenya 10-3 on aggregate in their second round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Uganda returned home with a 7-2 lead from Nairobi a fortnight ago but laboured to a 3-1 win in the home leg at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende, last Friday.

“We know that many people expected lots of goals but all we (the team) wanted was a win,” Khalifa said after the game where his side struggled to impose the free-flowing football they are known for. 

“Kenya definitely did their homework and it showed in their improved performance. We expected this and that is why we are very happy with the win.”

Margaret Kunihira opened the scoring for Uganda by connecting with Sumaya Komuntale’s delivery from a corner kick in the 14th minute. But Kenya, who had turned up more physical, were repaid for their hard work when defender Bira Nadunga clipped Joy Oriyo in the box.

Captain Peris Oside stepped up and left keeper Daphine Nyayenga flat-footed to make it 1-1 from the spot, leaving a bitter taste in Khalifa’s mouth over his side’s continued vulnerability at the back.

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Uganda went ahead again in the 38th minute from another Komuntale set-piece that Kunihira laid for Hadijah Nandago to finish.

All that was left for a party was a goal from Juliet Nalukenge and after missing guilt-edged chances in the 28th and 67th minutes, her moment came at death after she had been fouled by Lavender Akinyi on the edge of the box.
South Africa looms large

Nalukenge blasted her freekick straight into the top right corner to make it 3-1 and 10-3 on aggregate.

“Honestly, scoring from only set-pieces shows we can find solutions in different ways. It does not worry me at all that we did not score from open play,” said Khalifa, whose side will face South Africa in the third round later in the year.

When Khalifa started coaching the U-17 national team in 2019, his first assignment was at the Cosafa Championships.
He met South Africa, who have also promoted about half the squad to U-20 level, in the finals then and won 2-1 with goals from Fauzia Najjemba and Nalukenge.

“We know South Africa will be thinking of revenge when we meet. But I have seen these girls raise their level depending on the opponents. We’ll definitely put up a show against South Africa,” he said when asked if his team is feeling the weight of the expectation after Covid-19 came between them and 180 minutes of fighting for a place at the 2021 Fifa U-17 World Cup in India with Cameroon.

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