Crested Cranes coach George Lutalo has stuck to mostly the tried and tested as he leads Uganda to their second appearance at the Cosafa Women Championships that start today in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Eleven of the players that went to Uganda’s first Cosafa appearance, where they finished third after beating Zambia 1-0 in the third place playoffs – under Faridah Bulega in 2018 – returned to South Africa yesterday.
Goalkeepers Ruth Aturo and Daisy Nakaziro are still indispensable but there will be no place for a third goalkeeper in the squad that starts it’s battle for a place in the semifinals on Thursday against Eswatini.
Juliet Adeke, who went in 2018, was not even in the provisional squad in Njeru.
Lutalo, who is a new face in women football circles, also went for the assuredness of right-back Viola Namuddu and might stick to the centre-back pairing of Bridget Nabisaalu and Shadia Nankya.
Without Aisha Namukisa and Grace Aluka – currently in the U-20 squad playing World Cup qualifiers – Lutalo will make do with Phoebe Banura and Eunice Ariokot, both national team rookies.
In midfield, Lutalo might have to show new combinations altogether as he cannot have the US-based Tracy Jones Akiror while creative spark Shamirah Nalugya is also with the U-20s.
Shakira Mutiibwa, who used to play with the two, was not summoned but there was a place for her Asubo-Gafford teammate Sheebah Zalwango and their former teammate Joan Nabirye, who is a shoo-in for the defensive midfield spot.
Nabirye was part of the Kenyan club Vihiga Queens that recently won the Caf Women’s Champions League zonal qualifying tournament in Nairobi.
Spencer Nakacwa and Norah Alupo were in Bulega’s squad as forwards but Lutalo has them on paper as midfielders. They are joined by Riticia Nabbosa, Amina Nababi and Pheona Nabbumba.
Upfront, US-based Laki Otandeka returns to the fold for the first time since Cecafa 2016 in Njeru. She played on the right of a front three with Hasifah Nassuna and Fazila Ikwaput, who will be the biggest miss as she is injured.
Juliet Nalukenge is also with the U-20s.
However, all eyes will be on the highly-rated Iceland-based striker Sandra Nabweteme, who has essentially had only a cameo role in the national set-up since it rebranded to Crested Cranes in 2016.
It was the same year she moved to Southwestern Oklahoma State University on a college football scholarship.