Trust in U-20s shows Lutalo building for the future

Pure Talent.   Fauzia Najjemba dribbles the ball as Djbouti player Fardoussa Ali Doubad pursues her during a Cecafa U20 Women Championship at the FUFA technical Centre ground in Njeru. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE
 

What you need to know:

  • The coach also belatedly added defender Bira Nadunga to his travelling squad while Joanita Ainembabazi, who was previously under-looked for the Queen Cranes also made the cut.

Coach George Lutalo has included nine U-20 national team players in his 26-man squad for July 2-23 Women Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco.

His aim “to build a squad that will impress and dominate in the future,” even with the footnote of dropping one of the Queen Cranes’ leaders in striker Juliet Nalukenge, cannot be more stated.
Of course, five of these had played for the Crested Cranes under coach Faridah Bulega’s reign but probably not with as much responsibility on their shoulders. 

Lillian Mutuuzo was instrumental for Bulega when she finished second in the 2018 Cecafa Women Championship in Rwanda but had since fallen out of favour and gone under the radar with lukewarm club performances for Kampala Queens (KQ) in the local league.

She had to redeem herself as one of Ayub Khalifa’s game changers for the Queen Cranes and seems to have grown into the role for the senior team.

Asia Nakibuuka was also in and out of Bulega’s squad with the coach at one time admitting that the players’ versatility could cost her call-ups in the future. Lutalo has since turned to her as a right back.

Fauzia Najjemba and Shamirah Nalugya would surely have been instrumental for Bulega after utilizing them for Cecafa 2019 and pushing for them to join her at KQ. 

Lutalo immediately warmed up to Najjemba as soon as she became available after some World Cup qualifiers for the U-20s and now seems to build his attack around Nalugya and Hasifah Nassuna.

It is easy to forget that Zainah Nandede was even at Cecafa 2019 but the winger’s resilience forced Lutalo turn to her in the finals of Cecafa 2022 and could set her up for more playing time in Morocco.

Young but good enough 

But it is Aisha Nantongo, Margaret Kunihira and Sumaya Komuntale that show how much Lutalo is willing to give a chance to young players that prove to be good enough.

Komuntale seems to have no competitors for the left-back position and should play every minute if she stays fit.

Kunihira is loved for her relentless pressing even on days when she is struggling to beat defenders. Nantongo, who turned 20 in April, was trusted to play in central defence in the qualifiers and Cecafa, alongside Margaret Namirimu. 

One of the two could make way for Yudaya Nakayenze but it is telling that Lutalo has tried all combinations in training in case he still needs Nantongo on pitch.

The coach also belatedly added defender Bira Nadunga to his travelling squad while Joanita Ainembabazi, who was previously under-looked for the Queen Cranes also made the cut.

U-20 in CRESTED CRANES TEAM

Lillian Mutuuzo         - 19
Asia Nakibuuka         - 19
Zainah Nandede         - 18
Shamirah Nalugya         -18 
Fauzia Najjemba         - 18
Margaret Kunihira         - 17
Sumaya Komuntale         - 18 
Aisha Nantongo         - 20
Bira Nadunga         - 19
Joanita Ainembabazi         - 19

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