Crested Cranes head coach George Lutalo felt he had zeroed down on his starting team in the June 28 friendly with Zambia.
But the Cranes were harshly welcomed back to the Women Africa Cup of Nations after a 22-year absence with a 2-0 loss to Senegal.
“We lost confidence to defend properly and to utilise our chances,” Lutalo said in his post-match remarks.
Lutalo’s technical team appeared to enforce their game plan even when Senegal’s threats were clear from the get go.
Senegal’s Haby Balde and Hapsatou Diallo clearly tried to isolate Uganda’s fullbacks and torture them with pace in the first half. And they were repaid when the latter won a penalty off Aisha Nantongo.
Uganda could have done with more defensive-minded bodies to nullify that threat but instead had their creators Hasifah Nassuna and Shamirah Nalugya fall back to win the ball from defence.
Lutalo reacted by taking off Nassuna for a defence-minded Phiona Nabbumba at halftime and it seemed to work until Yudaya Nakayenze was caught in possession at the halfway line.
Nabweteme vs. Kivumbi
But even the little creativity that had been seen in the first half dissipated and Lutalo had to turn to Sandra Nabweteme in a makeshift creative role.
Nabweteme was schooled as a mobile centre-forward who can come short to combine with the midfield thereby creating spaces for the forwards who prefer to come from wide like Fazila Ikwaput, Fauzia Najjemba and Viola Nambi.
Lutalo has a decision to make about his forward line ahead of tonight’s Group A match against hosts Morocco at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat.
If he maintains his preferred midfield shape of one pivot and two central midfielders, then Nabweteme as a central striker who drop back to link play seems like a logical choice ahead of Ritah Kivumbi, who likes to stay up-front and play off the shoulders of defenders.
Kivumbi will be the choice if the plan is to cross balls or thread through passes into the box. But then that would call for the full-backs Sumaya Komuntale and Nakibuuka to push forward.
It is an idea that Lutalo must be thinking of because Morocco not only like to keep the ball but also have wide forwards like captain Ghizlane Chebbak and Fatima Tagnaout who burst into central positions to combine with attacking midfielder Salma Amani and striker Rosella Ayani.
Nantongo also seems to be preferred for her long balls from defence that can change one bad situation to an attack but Nakayenze’s game reading ability might work with a communicator like Margaret Namirimu around her.
Uganda vs Morocco
Goalkeeper: Ruth Aturo
Defenders: Asia Nakibuuka, Margaret Namirimu, Yudaya Nakayenze, Sumaya Komuntale
Midfielders: Joan Nabirye, Hasifah Nassuna, Shamirah Nalugya
Forwards: Sandra Nabweteme, Fazila Ikwaput, Fauzia Najjemba