Low-scoring Cranes need goals in gluts

Poacher. Bayo is Uganda’s only scorer thus far. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO

What you need to know:

  • Uganda Cranes is yet to get a reliable striking force as players keep on changing every after a match.

Seeing de facto Uganda Cranes protagonist Fahad Bayo netting in separate matches against Rwanda is something that Ugandans may need to get used to.

Bayo’s two goals are all that Micho Sredojevic’s side have mastered in four World Cup qualifiers - and the man of the moment remains the highest goal hope ahead of the Kenya and Mali encounters this week.

Yet, the FC Ashdod gangly striker is miles away from a finished article to be saddled with the nation’s goal-scoring burden.

Uganda Cranes team manager Geoffrey Massa, a former national team net banger, entirely agrees while pointing at Bayo’s rough edges that he is helping polish.

“I have seen Bayo transform from the lad who impressed in the Chan qualifiers with a mediocre first touch and loose ball control to the Cranes first choice striker now.  I continue working with him to improve that because he plays the same number I used to play. You can notice the improvement from the scrappy goal he scored in Rwanda,” revealed Massa, who at 14 Afcon and World Cup qualifying goals, remains the record Cranes goalscorer.

“We are preparing Bayo to fit in Micho’s format of playing with one lone striker and now is adapting to be supplemented by powerful and speedy Steven Mukwala on the right. That said, we still miss charismatic creative midfielders to provide assists and largely rely on long balls and set-pieces for goals,” Massa told Daily Monitor.

Yunus Ssentamu, Ibrahim Orit, Milton Karisa and Martin Kizza are the other striking options.

Cranes still work in progress 
Hassan Mubiru, whose lethal combination with Andrew Mukasa at the national team, believes the team is still shrouded in uncertainty.

“Uganda Cranes is yet to get a reliable striking force as players keep on changing every after a match.The good thing we can defend and yet to concede. I think it is time to start trusting one. 

“The fact that Bayo has scored in two consecutive matches puts him on the spot to score at all costs now. Eric Kambale would be an improved choice but he is yet to decide his destiny,” revealed Mubiru, now an assistant coach at Express. Cranes industrious midfielder Farouk Miya, still regaining his footing, concurs with Mubiru on the rebuilding process that is yet to attain team synergy.

“I think since we have new players  in the team, they will soon understand each other. The moment a player is summoned on national duty it means the coach has trust in the ability and they all have the attributes to deliver,” said the attacking midfielder who has since left Turkish side Konyaspor. 

From the midfield, Miya always complimented the forwards with assists and goals and his memorable striker at Namboole against Comoros that ensured Cranes return to Afcon 39 years , remains stuff of legend.

Butindo advocates for Okello
Renowned youth coach Eddie Butindo opines that the scoring problem is a perceptual one that stems from academies through up to the top flight league.

“The search for goals is a process starting from the midfield passing and movement by the players without or with the ball climaxing in that final ball into the final third with speed, accuracy and anticipation as key attributes,” Butindo, who has nurtured a host of national team stars over the years, added.

To him, the tap goals can flow against Kenya and Mali if the Serbian coach goes for an attack-minded force of Bayo and Mukwala being fed by Paradou playmaker Allan Okello, Vipers Bobosi Byaruhanga, URA’s Shafiq Kagimu and Yanga’s Khalid Aucho.

“I would opt for an attacking side based on the qualities of those players in a 4-3-3 system that transforms into a 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 in the final third,” said Butindo, also a lecturer at Kyambogo University.

Whereas Kenya , that is already out of the picture and has conceded the most goals, seems an easy prey, getting the goals against Mali away from home may be a different tall order.  

Uganda Cranes Squad

Goalkeepers: Charles Lukwago (St George, Ethiopia), Isma Watenga (Chippa, S. A), Mathias Kigonya (Azam, Tanzania), Joel Mutakubwa (Express)
Defenders: Denis Iguma (KCCA), Gavin Kizito Mugweri (SC Villa), Isaac Muleme (Viktoria Žižkov, Czech Rep), Abdul-Aziizi Kayondo (Vipers), Timothy Awany (Ashdod, Israel), Bevis Mugabi (Motherwell, Scotland), Livingstone Mulondo (Vipers), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers), Kenneth Semakula (SC Villa), Geofrey Waswa (KCCA)
Midfielders: Khalid Aucho (Yanga, Tanzania), John Revita (KCCA), Bobosi Byaruhanga (Vipers), Mahad Kakooza (Express), Moses Waiswa (Super Sport Utd, S.A), Shafik Kuchi Kagimu (URA), Allan Okello (Paradou, Algeria), Julius Poloto (KCCA)
Forwards: Fahad Bayo (Ashdod, Israel), Yunus Sentamu (Vipers), Steven Desse Mukwala (URA), Ibrahim Orit (Vipers), Martin Kizza (Express), Milton Karisa (Vipers)