Moment of reckoning

Okwi must stand up to be counted in Ismalia. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

North African giants Algeria set the pace in their opening two matches, beating Uganda 2-0 and Tanzania 3-0 to top the group. The Desert foxes drew 1-all with Niger on Thursday night.

The last time Uganda and Tanzania were in the same qualification group was in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Egypt edition. 

Then, although the Taifa Stars drew goalless in Kampala and thrashed the otherwise already qualified Cranes 3-0 in Dar es Salaam, it is Uganda that bossed the group.

The Cranes finished top on 13 points, a massive five ahead of second-placed Tanzania as both made it to Egypt. 

Uninspiring start

Now, heading into match day three of the qualification to the 2023 Afcon finals in Ivory Coast, the two find themselves scrambling for crumbs quite early.

North African giants Algeria set the pace in their opening two matches, beating Uganda 2-0 and Tanzania 3-0 to top the group.

The Desert foxes edged Niger 2-1 on Thursday night. Man City winger Riyad Mahrez nicked the winner late in the game. 

Now Uganda and Tanzania, who face on Friday in the Egyptian city of Ismailia and next Tuesday in Dar es Salaam, know they must each reclaim their faltering campaign in these two matches. 

Tough derby 

“Definitely derbies are never easy but we all know our target and we are ready to offer everything in our means as players,” vowed Cranes midfielder Khalid Aucho, who has good knowledge about Tanzania as he plays with Yanga.

Tanzanian striker and captain Mbwana Samatta actually believes Uganda are their biggest trouble in the region.

"I think in East Africa, Uganda are the only team that gives us a tough match,” said the Belgian-based Genk striker, “there has never been an easy match versus Uganda.”

One thing for sure is it is going to be a fiercely contested encounter over the two legs.

Victory for either Uganda or Tanzania, which would be the first for any this campaign, would move them to four points, setting the stage for next week’s clash.

Defeat for any may not necessarily spell the end of the campaign but will have definitely created some mountain for them ahead of next week.  

Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic is blessed with a team of active players that blends quite well between youth and experience. It is how he sets them up that could determine the outcome.

Micho and his set-up

While most Ugandans will want the Serbian to go all out, Micho knows that the Tanzanians have the ability to hurt his side when left exposed. 

So he will likely emphasise keeping it compact at the back and in the middle while calling for ruthlessness when in attack. 

In goal, St George’s Charles Lukwago and Richards Bay’s Salim Jamal are ahead of URA’s Nafian Alionzi in pecking order. 

So it will be between South Africa-based Jamal and Lukwago to grab the gloves tonight.

Timothy Awany of Israel’s SC Ironi Ashdod and FK Bregalnica’s (North Macedonia) Halid Lwaliwa are tipped to form the central defensive pairing.

Gavin Kizito and Joseph Ochaya, who both play in Egypt with Al Ittihad SC and Al Makawdoon Al Arab SC respectively, are shoe-in to man the full back positions.

Right in front of them, experienced Aucho will be tasked to limit the times Samatta comes face to face with the back four.

Micho could opt for Bobosi Byaruhanga (US) and Faruku Miya (Turkey) playing off Aucho in the middle, with either Allan Okello, Isma Mugulusi, or Rogers Mato supporting skipper Emmanuel Okwi and Fahad Bayo upfront.

One thing for sure is that with prospects Rogers Mugisha, Travis Mutyaba, Richard Basangwa, Steven Sserwadda, Kenneth Ssemakula, Rogers Torach, Steven Mukwala and James Begisa, Micho will have good options off the bench.

As for Tanzania coach Adel Amrouche, these are two monumental games for him as they are his first competitive ones since he was appointed recently. 

Apart from his dangerous captain Samatta, he has more riches to call on from Simba and Yanga, who have all just advanced to the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup.

Uganda Cranes probable XI

Salim Jamal, Timothy Awany, Halid Lwaliwa, Gavin Kizito, Joseph Ochaya, Khalid Aucho, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Faruku Miya, Allan Okello, Emmanuel Okwi, Fahad Bayo


Nafian Alionzi, Charles Lukwago, Rogers Torach, James Begisa Penz, Livingstone Mulondo, Kenneth Semakula, Aziz Kayondo, Siraje Ssentamu Siraje, Rogers Mugisha, Rogers Mato, Travis Mutyaba, Gavin Kizito, Steven Sserwadda, Isma Mugulusi, Emmanuel Okwi, Steven Mukwala Steven, Richard Basangwa 

Uganda vs Tanzania in Afcon qualification

Games won by Tanzania:3

Games won by Uganda: 4

Games drawn: 3

Afcon matches

Sept 12, 1982: Uganda 3-2 Tanzania

Sept 26, 1982: Tanzania 1-1 Uganda

Aug 04, 1984: Tanzania 0-1 Uganda

Aug 18, 1984: Uganda 1-3 Tanzania

April 14, 1991: Uganda 3-2 Tanzania

July 27, 1991: Tanzania 1-1 Uganda

Sept 03, 1994: Tanzania 4-0 Uganda

April 08, 1995: Uganda 2-0 Tanzania

Sept 08, 2018: Uganda 0-0 Tanzania

March 08, 2018: Tanzania 3-0 Uganda