McKinstry: Leave it all on the pitch

Tuesday January 26 2021

It’s time... McKinstry has 90 minutes to salvage the Cranes or is it time up? PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE.

By Andrew Mwanguhya

This is it! There are no second chances. The Cranes either leave everything on the pitch or pack everything thing back to Kampala.

In two of their past four African Nations Championship (Chan) finals, Uganda have come into the last group game with nothing to play for beyond pride.

And on the other two – at South Africa 2014 and Rwanda 2016 – the Cranes have come into the final group match with a chance to progress but crashed out.
That is crisis coach Johnny McKinstry and his boys will set out to avoid in Douala, Cameroon, tonight, with yet another early flight back home beckoning.

Cup final mentality
Saidi Kyeyune’s goal-of-the-tournament contender in the 2-1 defeat to Togo last Friday remains Uganda’s only moment of celebration.

That, and the goalless draw with Rwanda, left the Cranes needing to beat Group C leaders Morocco, who eliminated Uganda at the 2014 edition, if they are to progress.

More than anyone else, the man in the hot seat, McKinstry, knows what this match means.


“We are in that cup final mentality,” he said ahead of the game, “There is no next game at the moment. 

“There will be a couple of new things because Morocco present a different challenge.

Worry only about today
“But what we are saying to the players is ‘don’t worry about any tomorrow.” 
The Northern Irishman added: “Just worry about this game. Put all your energy into it, all that work rate, all that intelligence and vitality.

“And if you do that, there is really a big prize for you. And then we can put you back together. We will do everything that’s required to put you back together for the quarterfinal.

“But there’s no quarterfinal without the result (today). 
The 35-year-old coach did lose to Morocco 4-1 with Rwanda in the final group in 2016, but had already qualified for the quarterfinals by then.

“So we believe we can do it. We know if we do it, it will be a story written in Ugandan football in terms of the odds,” narrated McKinstry.
“I don’t think people expect it to happen but we know it can.
“We want to write that story for ourselves, for the country and everybody back home.”

Morocco expect victory
McKinstry’s Moroccan counterpart, Houcine Ammouta, also said the game is “a must win to avoid any unpleasant surprises.”

It is worth noting, however, that Cranes concerns are more borne of Morocco’s pedigree than the defending champions form in Cameroon.
The Atlas Lions have hardly excited despite topping the group.

They laboured to a 1-0 win over Togo with Yahya Jabrane’s retaken penalty deciding the day, and drew goalless with Rwanda.

Uganda must win to progress, while Morocco will qualify with a draw.
However, with Uganda, Morocco and Togo all ending on four points a likely reality, we could see a messy situation requiring three to four stages of tiebreaker rules to be applied.

McKinstry is expected to make a change or two from the team that lost to Togo, with Kyeyune likely to have earned himself a starting role.

Squeaky bum time...Tiebreaker rules

If tied on points after three games, the following criteria are applied, in the order given, to determine the rankings 
1. Points in head-to-head matches among tied teams
2. Goal difference in head-to-head matches among tied teams
3. Goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams
4. If more than two teams are tied, and after applying all head-to-head criteria above, a subset of teams are still tied, all head-to-head criteria above are reapplied exclusively to this subset of teams;

1. Goal difference in all group matches
2. Goals scored in all group matches
3. Drawing of lots.