Uganda Cranes put faith in new breed

Fahad Bayo will lead the line. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

Cranes coach Paul Put is unequivocal about the new kids on the block’s prowess to floor Botswana Friday in the epic World Cup qualifier - and wants them to do it in a style that will leave a lasting impression.

Five years later, Uganda Cranes fans return to a pristine Namboole Stadium singing a new name – Travis Mutyaba. 

Not the mercurial goalkeeper Denis Onyango or forward Emma Okwi anymore.

Cranes coach Paul Put is unequivocal about the new kids on the block’s prowess to floor Botswana on Friday in the epic World Cup qualifier - and wants them to do it in a style that will leave a lasting impression.

“The average age of the team is 23. I have a good feeling about the players available because they have been training hard and it is time for them to show they are ready,” Put revealed.

Put is expected to throw the chicken sink at Didier De Rosa’s Zebras with a fresh faced Cranes before engaging Group G leaders Algeria on Monday at home turf.

After two matches, Cranes have three points in fourth spot in Group G. 

So unwavering is the 68-year-old gaffer that he hastily downplayed the absence impact of injured skipper Khalid Aucho and winger Rogers Mato (missing due to travel issues) who scored the winner in the 1-0 win over Somalia.

“I was counting on the captain (Aucho) because of his experience in the midfield. We needed these players but we have no choice apart from trusting the players available,” Put said.

In fact, Aucho scored against today's opposition in the 2-1 away victory that took Uganda within a stone throw of the 2017 Afcon, ending a 39-year drought. 

Playmaker Travis Mutyaba will be a marked man. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

In Aucho’s absence, surrogates Ronald Ssekiganda, Joel Sserunjogi and Kenneth Ssemakula have been lined up to fill the void.

Impressive record

Botswana, which beat Guinea 1-0 before falling 3-2 to Mozambique in the World Cup qualifiers, might require a miracle to trounce Uganda, a nation that they haven’t beaten in each of their previous five meetings - losing three and claiming two draws since August 2006.

"It (Cranes) is a good team that is ranked 92nd and has played a lot of Afcon games but we are here to play with ambition and win.

"We have improved a lot, especially in defence and although we expect Cranes to be physical, we have the weapons to walk home with maximum points," Rosa warned.

Botswana arrived with a solid squad boasting of experienced campaigners with the likes of Tumisang Orebonye, Kabelo Seakanyeng and skipper Thatayaone Ditlhokwe who will form the core of Rosa’s army.

Olympique Club de Khouribga left winger Seakanyeng will be the man to watch for the visitors and is expected to probe the Cranes' probable backline of Isaac Muleme, Timothy Awany, Halid Lwaliwa and Ssemakula.

League top scorer Muhammad Shaban could get a chance. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

Eyes on Mutyaba

Every attack orchestrated by Cranes is expected to have the blessing of Zamalek playmaker Mutyaba who is designated to pull the proverbial strings in the middle of the pack.

He is expected to either sit at the tip of the three-man midfield or join wits with Allan Okello to feed any of Shaban or Bayo who might start as a lone ranger.

Put can still call on SC Villa on-song playmaker Patrick Kakande and colleague Umar Lutalo to reinforce the search for goals.