Pivotal day for Cranes

Friday January 22 2021
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Goals Hope. Aheebwa (2nd R), who has a proven record on the local and internationl scene this term, is in prime position to lead Uganda’s attack tonight. PHOTO/FUFA MEDIA

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Uganda play their 14th match in five editions of the African Nations Championship (Chan).

The event is literally a young brother of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). While the Uganda Cranes have missed only the inaugural edition in 2009, the returns at the finals have been abysmal to say the least.

Today’s game against debutants Togo, who lost 1-0 to defending champions Morocco as Uganda drew goalless with Rwanda on Monday, is the 14th attempt at only the second win.

The men in charge
In 13 games so far, Scottish coach Bobby Williamson has managed three, Serbian Micho Sredojevic six - including the only victory - and Frenchman Sebastien Desabre three.
Northern Irishman Johnny McKinstry will be managing his second for Uganda but sixth overall when you consider his quarterfinal run with Rwanda at the 2016 edition.

McKinstry has five players who have featured at this tournament before in his 25-man squad, and although all may not play today, he can at least count on a few informed heads.  But today all will need to fall in place for the 35-year-old coach to reduce pressure on himself.

Big game
A draw could still have Uganda head into the tie with Morocco next week with a chance to qualify with victory but history suggests that is a suspect plan. 

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So three points, it is, the Cranes must go for, having in mind they cannot influence results between Morocco and Rwanda on the same day.

“We’ve got a big game against Togo,” McKinstry told Daily Monitor after Wednesday’s training.

“A little bit of fatigue for one or two after the first game but that’s the case for every team.

“It’s a big game for them as well having lost to Morocco, but it’s about us finding the right balance tactically and technically on the pitch so as to be 100 per cent fresh for the game.”
Seize the opportunity
URA midfielder Saidi Kyeyune is shoe-in to get a starting nod after sitting out the opener.

“The coach is telling us to work together and for each other,” said Kyeyune, “He has made it clear to us that this is an opportunity we must not take for granted.”

McKinstry admitted it was frustrating both for Milton Karisa and staff when the forward was stretchered off injured after 14 minutes on Monday, but said skipper Halid Lwaliwa was back and in line to face Togo. “Togo play so differently from Rwanda,” explained McKinstry, “So we have to make a few little tweaks and maximize our talents on the pitch.”
Big decisions
McKinstry has a big decision to make on whether he retains the Mustafa Mujuzi-Paul Mbowa central defence partnership, which was very good on Monday, with Lwaliwa back. Aziz Kayondo was decent at left back and should continue, while Paul Willa, who settled into the game as it wore on, will have to starve off Denis Iguma at right back. 

Experienced Tonny Mawejje is another introduction that could join the midfield alongside Kyeyune and Karim Watambala or Bright Anukani.

Shafiq Kagimu started with the above latter two against Rwanda and it was not until Mawejje (for Anukani) and forward Ben Ocen (Viane Ssekajugo) came on in the second half that Cranes got a bit of structure.

Brian Aheebwa, who replaced injured Karisa in the opener, is favourite to lead the line, but don’t rule out potent Muhammad Shaban popping up.

The rest of the team - with Charles Lukwago between the sticks - should largely remain unchanged, with Joachim Ojera running the right midfield and Viane Ssekajugo or Ben Ocen on the left.

Victory for the Cranes would move then to four points and greatly improve their chances to progress from the group for the first time in five attempts.

CRANES PROBABLE XI 
Charles Lukwago, Aziz Kayondo, Mustafa Mujuzi (C) Paul Mbowa, Paul Willa, Tonny Mawejje, Karim Watambala, Saidi Kyeyune, Ben Ocen, Joackim Ojera, Brian Aheebwa Coach: Johnny McKinstry
 

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