Paul Puts trust in chosen bunch

Watenga is almost guaranteed to start in goal this June. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

Port Vale FC British-born Ugandan footballer, Uche Mubiru Ikpeazu, might finally make his long awaited debut after several setbacks in previous attempts. Capradossi Elio, born in Uganda before moving to Italy aged two, is another fresh face in Put’s World Cup squad. 

Uganda Cranes coach Paul Joseph Put is confident that his squad of 28 players will deliver on the national team’s return to Namboole in June’s Fifa World World Cup qualifying matches.

The Cranes welcome Botswana and Algeria on June 7 and 10 respectively, the first time Uganda will be playing at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole since November 2019, when they beat Malawi 2-0.

Later on, Namboole was closed for renovation after Caf blacklisted it for not meeting the required international standards to host senior continental and world matches.

Namboole fortress

It is just this month that the ban was lifted after some two league matches were played there as test games.

And on June 7, under floodlights, Uganda will return to their one-time fortress hoping to revive exactly that.

“Uganda Cranes returning to Namboole is a big motivation for us because the fans have missed the chance to watch the team,” said Cranes coach Paul Put, “I believe the players will also be motivated to play at home again.”

Put was speaking at the Fufa Complex in Mengo on Thursday, where he named a 28-man squad to enter residential camp on May 30 and begin preparing for the World Cup qualifying matches against Botswana and Algeria.

The Belgian’s summoned squad is a mix of youth and experience, with several youngsters from Uganda Premier League mixing it out with foreign based stars.

“I believe the players summoned are in the right shape and in perfect condition to represent the country,” added Put.

Fresh faces

One of the standout players in the squad is Port Vale FC British-born Ugandan, Uche Mubiru Ikpeazu, 29.

Born in London to a Nigerian father and Uganda mother, Ikpeazu was first summoned by then coach Johnny McKinstry in 2020.

But one thing after another kept him out, and coach Micho Sredojevic tracking him later on did not help either as the player insisted he was focused on his club football at the time. 

Cranes coach Paul Put (L). PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

However, it looks like he might finally make his long awaited debut for Uganda. However, the 6 '3 attacker is not your prolific goal scorer. 

But his size and ability to hold up play to bring his team mates into the game, while getting that odd goal, is perhaps what Cranes coaches - one after another - want in him.

In his 20 English League One in the just ended season, Ikpeazu played 20 matches, starting 11 of them. He scored one goal and created another in the said matches.

The other fresh face is defender Capradossi Elio, who was born in Uganda to an Italian father and a Democratic Republic of Congo mother.

Capradossi, 28, moved to Italy at the age of two. He received citizenship from his father, who was the former director of Roma's rugby team. He represented Italy from the U16s all through to the U21s. 

UPL stars make their case

He currently plays for Italian Serie C side, Lecco and is a product of Roma youth academy. He won the 2015–2016 Italian U19 Championship with Roma's U19 team as the squad captain.

Of the 28 summoned players, 11 play their football in the Uganda Premier League.

Five of the 11 including Kenneth Ssemakula, Patrick Jonah Kakande, Umar Lutalo, Ronald Ssekiganda and Braddy Wokorach have just won the league with SC Villa.

Fifa World Cup 2026

Group G

Matchdays 3 & 4

June 7, 2024

Uganda vs Botswana, 7pm, Namboole

June 10, 2024

Uganda vs Algeria, 7pm, Namboole

Matchdays 5 & 6

March 17-25, 2025

Mozambique vs Uganda

Uganda vs Guinea

Matchdays 7 & 8

September 1-9, 2025

Uganda vs Mozambique

Uganda vs Somalia

Matchdays 9 & 10

October 6-14, 2025

Botswana vs Uganda

Algeria vs Uganda

Nine African teams qualify directly for the 2026 Fifa World Cup

Second round

November 10-18, 2025

The second round will pit the four best runners-up in two one-off semi-finals, followed by a final. The winner of this second round will participate in the Fifa Play-off Tournament

Group H Standings

Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts

Algeria 2 2 0 0 5 1 +4 6

Botswana 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 3

Guinea 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 3

Uganda 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 3

Mozambique 2 1 0 1 3 4 −1 3

Somalia 2 0 0 2 1 4 −3 0

Uganda Cranes Squad

Isima Bid Rashid Watenga (Lamontville Golden Arrows FC, South Africa), Nafian Alionzi (Defence Forces FC, Ethiopia), Crispus Kusiima (Kitara FC, Uganda), Braddy Jeans Wokorach (SC Villa, Uganda)

Elvis Bwomono (St. Mirren FC, Scotland), Kenneth Semakula (SC Villa, Uganda), Isaac Muleme (FK Victoria Zizkov, Czech Republic), Bevis Mugabi (Motherwell FC, Scotland), Abdu Aziizi Kayondo (MFK Vyskov, Czech Republic), Nicholas Mwere (BUL FC, Uganda), Timothy Denis Awany (FC Ashdod, Israel), Capradossi Elio (Calcio Lecco FC, Italy), Halidi Lwaliwa (FK Bregainica Stip, North Macedonia)

Khalid Aucho (Yanga SC, Tanzania), Bobosi Byaruhanga (Austin FC, USA), Ronald Ssekiganda (SC Villa, Uganda), Joel Sserunjogi (KCCA FC, Uganda), Ibrahim Kasule (New York Red Bull II, USA),Travis Mutyaba (Zamalek SC, Egypt)

Steven Dese Mukwala (Asante Kotoko FC, Ghana), Uchechukwu Mubiru Ikpeazu (Port Vale, England), Denis Omedi (Kitara FC, Uganda), Muhammad Shaban (KCCA FC, Uganda), Fahad Aziz Bayo (MFK Vyskov, Czech Republic), Rogers Kassim Mato (Brera Strumica), Patrick Jonah Kakande (SC Villa, Uganda), Umar Lutalo (SC Villa, Uganda), Allan Okello (Vipers SC, Uganda)