Uganda Cranes need goals, fast

Cranes coach Paul Put (R) talks to playmaker Travis Mutyaba. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

Cranes coach Paul Put tried to address the scoring conundrum right away on the first day of the team's preparation for the World Cup qualifiers against Botswana and Algeria this weekend at Namboole Stadium. 
 

Netting goals with relative ease has been an endemic dilemma for Ugandan football and in particular, the national team. 

Not since the days of Geoffrey Massa has Uganda Cranes got a reliable forward  that is at least assured of netting goals on home turf. 

For all his limitations, Massa, now part of the Cranes technical team, burst into life with goals at fortress Namboole and he is yet to be replaced since he hung up the boots in 2017.

Goals, goals, goals

Cranes coach Paul Put tried to address the scoring conundrum right away on the first day of the team's preparation for the World Cup qualifiers against Botswana and Algeria this weekend at Namboole Stadium. 

Uganda Cranes players go through running exercise at training. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

First, he demanded the players' mental fortitude to be at its highest so that they can withstand the pressure that comes with playing before the home crowd after a five-star hiatus. 

“Everyone is hungry as football returns home. If my players are not hungry, if you can play in front of your people, and you are not mentally ready, then it is better to stay at home,” he said. 

On Friday at Namboole, Put worked with 20 players of the 28 he summoned and the largest spell was extended to ball work and creating attacking and goalscoring patterns. 

"Today was about touching the ball and gaining confidence. I saw positive things from the new players but the most important thing for us today was to get the confidence on the ball and to play a little bit out of positions," the Belgian added. 

Fahad Bayo, Steven Mukwala and Kitara forward Denis Omedi are the striking options Put is testing in a desperate bid to open the Cranes goal taps. 

Mutyaba holds key

Fortunately for Put, Zamalek playmaker Travis Mutyaba put in an impressive shift in training that painted a rosy picture. 

Before scoring a goal, Mutyaba had created a couple of scoring chances, played in two positions and always found spaces where it seemed impossible. 

Orchestra. Uganda Cranes playmaker Travis Mutyaba will bear most of the responsibility. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

The Caf Confederation Cup winner is expected to lift the scoring burden off the strikers alongside other creative players like Allan Okello, Patrick Kakande and Ibrahim Okello. 

With four days left to the Botswana tie, Put has a taxing duty of selecting his best even soldiers that will grind out maximum points to lift the Cranes from the current fourth position posting in Group H. 

Put must have been relieved to learn that his Algerian counterpart Vladimir Petkovic will be without the lethal Riyad Mahrez, Borussia Dortmund’s Rami Bensabaini and experienced forwards Sliman Islam and Youcef Belaili when they face Cranes on Monday.