Here’s why Fufa has to do a better job of handling the Cranes transition this time around

ROBERT MADOI 

What you need to know:

Cranes backroom will doubtless be pleased by the tenor of remarks that welcomed the bittersweet results during the latest set of qualifying matches.

Nothing is more exhilarating than a win secured behind getting the basics right with unerring accuracy.

Conversely, nothing is more exasperating than a loss suffered thanks in no small part to making a catalogue of elementary errors.

Yes, we are talking about the Cranes here who, let's admit, had their fans slipping easily in and out of tears during their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying doubleheader at home to Botswana and Algeria.

Stripped back to essentials, the manner in which Muhammad Shaban managed to get goal-side of his marker before attacking the box to dispatch Denis Omedi's cross with thrilling ferocity was soft on the eye. The goal, a sheer work of beauty as much as the product of sticking to the basics, proved to be decisive against Botswana.

Then the moments of madness against Algeria! Where do we begin? There was actually a preponderance of them long before Kenneth Semakula's ball control blooper and, seconds later, Halid Lwaliwa's embarrassingly costly slip left Uganda in an impossible situation.

The Cranes struggled on a number of occasions to recover their shape in defensive transitions. You simply cannot do that against Algeria.

For those whose radical optimism has led them to believe that the Cranes have a good shot at making the World Cup cut, Algeria's come-from-behind 2-1 win at Namboole felt like a sledgehammer blow.

For the realists, though, the defeat came not as a shock but as a troubling inevitability. Top marks for those that chose to hope against hope despite recognising the inevitability of defeat.

In truth, there were a few positives that suggest a somewhat bright future. For starters, it was refreshing to see the team opt not to prioritise athleticism over artistry even when facing a quality side like Algeria. The defensive transitions or the lack of them aside, Paul Put's charges appeared to be keenly aware of the sport’s rigorous demands at the elite level.

This got the team close to the Promised Land. One is left wondering what might have been had Steven Mukwala not been guilty of conceding a gilt-edged miss off a rebound from Rogers Mato’s fiercely struck shot when the score was 1-0 at the backend of first half. Then, of course, there was that penalty incident involving the indefatigable Mato shortly after Algeria had restored parity.

Oftentimes, the smallest details count for much. It is the fervent hope of many Cranes fans that Put's young charges learn from the tough body blows they were forced to absorb against Algeria.

The Cranes backroom will doubtless be pleased by the tenor of remarks that welcomed the bittersweet results during the latest set of qualifying matches.

The general consensus appears to be that the Cranes are a work in progress. If only they could learn how to ‘suffer’ against superior opposition!

That said; as this column has noted before, the Cranes can do a much better job of managing transitions.

We have been here before, to be honest, and things have not quite worked out as initially planned. Or, more accurately, hoped. This is principally because we tend not to set measurable targets for ourselves.

Tears of pain. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

Can we be a little more detailed this time around? And if we are building a side we hope to be competitive when the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations finals get underway on home soil, can there be some clarity around the players Put wants to work with?

Can the effort in keeping the unit together be more robust? Otherwise the tendencies to chop and change as well as dither have been noticeable blots over the past years.

While all this happens, the morbid entitlement of a section of the fans also has to be tamed.

Fans have to come to a realisation, and pretty quick, that they are rallying behind a pony in a horse race.

Who knows what can happen if fans, players, and backroom staff collectively pull in the same direction and learn how to manage expectations!

Perhaps Lwaliwa will not be too frightened to the point of being caught in a daze; Mukwala will surely be level-headed enough to maintain a welcome calmness in the opponent's box…


Long and short of it, opportunities to pleasantly surprise ourselves will abound.

The predatory ruthlessness that is required to do more than survive at the elite level might finally come naturally.

But to get to that point, an outstanding clarity of thought will be of the essence. Over to you, Fufa.
 
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