Uganda Cranes left many questions unanswered in the tactical sense after a goalless draw against Rwanda’s Amavubi in the Group C opener at the Chan finals in Douala, Cameroon on Monday night.
The stalemate has already made the route to the last eight a little more complex and here, we pick a few talking points.
Halid Lwaliwa’s late strike against South Sudan during the Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers in November elevated him fast in the Cranes’ set-up.
The centre-back took on the captain’s armband but had to sit out the Chan opener because of a knock.
While away, stand-in skipper Mustafa Mujuzi and Paul Mbowa delivered a commendable role.
The only Cranes’ third clean sheet in 13 Chan matches had a bit of luck too when Jacques Tuyisenge’s header hit the upright after Muhadriji Hakizimana’s shot had ricocheted off the crossbar in the first half.
Midfield three fail to click
Coach Johnny McKinstry deployed a three-man midfield comprising Bright Anukani, Karim Watambala and Shafiq Kagimu but the codes failed to work.
Owing to size and height respectively, Kagimu and Watambala struggled to dictate to play due to the physicality of the opponents.
When they held onto possession latently, the momentum never materialized as desired. The immediate introduction of Tonny Mawejje for Anukani at half-time explains the magnitude of this failure.
Front three picks Upfront, McKinstry had hoped Vianey Ssekajugo, Milton Karisa and Joackiam Ojera would deliver upfront. But goals remain a problem for Uganda at the grand stage.
Karisa suffered an injury and was replaced early by Brian Aheebwa, who could have netted shortly after coming on. Ojera was lively coming off the flanks, Ssekajugo was lost for moments and eventually paved way for Ben Ocen as the second stanza kicked off.
The Cranes have now failed to score in seven of their 13 outings at Chan finals since Sudan 2011.
Derbies are always littered with familiarity, which makes it difficult to peel away to one end.
And this Cecafa affair had AS Kigali players who had faced KCCA’s earlier in the Caf Confederation Cup over a fortnight ago. Yet, McKinstry was also facing the Amavubi he coached from 2015-16.
Running out of excuses
But the Northern Irishman may have himself to blame in case the mission to make it out of Group C gets botched. Why? None of the teams in the pool acclimatized for this showpiece in Cameroon like the way the Cranes since December 29.
And in history, if memory serves well, no Cranes’ side has had a warm-up tournament in the same country the finals are set to be staged.
This kind of preparation often gives team key chemistry which, in a way, offers a cutting edge.Ssozi and Samuel Kayongo could prove key.
Mubiru also took the gamble on the immensely talented but often unsettled Frank Tumwesigye who has yet to realise his potential almost four years since he promoted him to the first team while at Vipers.
Another former Kitende product is Duncan Sseninde who was eager to reunite with Mubiru.
THE CRANES & WASPS MATCH DAY 1 SQUADS
Uganda Cranes XI
Charles Lukwago, Aziz Kayondo, Mustafa Mujuzzi (C) Paul Mbowa, Paul Willa, Shafik Kagimu, Karim Watambala, Bright Anukani (Tonny Mawejje), Viane Sekajugo (Ben Ocen), Joachim Ojera, Milton Karisa (Brian Aheebwa)
Rwanda Amavubi Stars XI
Olivier Kwizera, Emmanuel Imanishimwe, Ange Mutsinzi, Jacques Tuyisenge (C), Muhadjiri Hakizimana, Rashid Kalisa, Fitina Omborenga, Thierry Manzi, Olivier Niyonzima, Dominique Savio Nshuti, Jean Bertrand Iradukunda