Wounded Foxes make feast of Cranes, more work to do

Algerian Mohamed Amoura  left Cranes defender Halid Lwaliwa on the ground. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

A level too far. It was the ultimate test Pauge is Cranes rebuilding project. Yes, it hurt dearly that Uganda Cranes lost 2-1 to Algeria before the Namboole crowd on Monday night but it seemed unavoidable.

Almost all the chinks in the Cranes armour were laid bare by the ruthless Algerians. 

Suddenly, Cranes' short-lived joy of defeating Botswana 1-0 four days earlier and dreams of a maiden World Cup appearance came to a grinding halt.

Zamalek playmaker Travis Mutyaba wowed the spectators by drilling home a jaw dropping strike that sailed past hapless Algerian goalkeeper Anthony Manderea, after some impeccable footwork.

It is safe to say Paul Put's Cranes were in control with the 1-0 lead in the first half before hell broke loose in the second. 

The midfield trio of Bobosi Byaruhanga, Ronald Ssekiganda and Mutyaba suddenly couldn't match the visitors' established stars - Nabil Bentaleb, Houssem Aouar and Ismail Benacer as time went on.

The gulf in class was on display as the Cranes failed to capitalise on the mammoth fan's attendance to poke the wounded Desert Foxes.

The first act of sluggishness by the Cranes was punished two minutes into the second half when Aouar popped into the box to finish off a well-constructed attacking move that had defenders Elio Carpradossi and Halid Lwaliwa on sixes and sevens.

Gas pedal

The unwritten rule when playing against North Africans states that - never put your foot off the gas pedal and always be mindful of well-orchestrated counterattacks - especially after a set piece situation.

Cranes forgot that in the 74th minute and dominant Algerians were good for a second goal after a classic quick counter-attack that had defenders Kenneth Ssemakula and Lwaliwa both fail to thwart it was superbly finished off by Lyon winger Said Benrahma.

Lwaliwa, who was left crutching on fours enroute to the second goal, was hurled off for Timothy Awany who returned some calmness. 

It hurts to learn that cranes, then under Micho Sredojevic, conceded a similar counter-attacking goal against the Algerians in Cameroon, just 11 months ago.

Not even the desperate unveiling of substitutes Muhammad Shaban Jagason, Denis Omedi, Ibrahim Kasule and Patrick Kakande could inspire an equaliser against Vladmir Petrovic's charges.

There were so many sad faces at fulltime. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

It was apparent that Cranes is still short on experience and quality whenever faced with the elite of African football which ultimately makes the road to North America a bumpy one.

The World Cup qualification campaign in Group G took a drastic shift with Algeria cementing their leadership with nine points from four matches - tied with Mozambique in second.

It is now a gloomy picture for Cranes that are tied on six points with Botswana and Guinea but occupy the fifth slot with a zero goal difference. Only point-less Somalia is worse at the basement.

‘Stupid’ mistakes

Both goals Cranes conceded were avoidable had the players kept their nerves and composure amidst the Algerian offensive.

"I congratulated my boys for their mental attitude but in football it is very simple, when you create chances and you don't score it becomes difficult to win. If you give away stupid goals  in a very bad moment, you get punished," Put revealed.

You could infer from the Belgian's discontented gaze that he might go out there again and lure another 'Carpradossi' to continue refining the Cranes.

"It is a learning process because our players are young and have to grow in maturity and experience.  We have to look out for quality players. We didn't deserve to lose because if everything was correct, we would have got a penalty," he added.

To Put, who beat Somalia and Botswana but lost to Algeria and Guinea, the Cranes 'lost the battle but won the war'.

"We will analyze the game to the players and change because we still have a bright future ahead," he said. 

Uganda Cranes next World Cup qualifying engagement will be in March next year when they visit Mozambique and host Guinea in another double-header. 

Realistically, Uganda did not start this campaign dreaming of going to the 2026 World Cup. Luckily, it remains a dream.