trueBy Fred Kaweesi
African Championship (CHAN)
South Africa (January 11 – Feb 1)
When the Cranes first qualified for the Africa Nations Championship in 2011, a lot was expected from the team.
However, several factors conspired to send the Cranes crushing out of Africa’s second most prestigious competition in humiliating fashion. The Cranes did not only lose all three of their group matches, they also failed to score a single goal in the entire championship hosted in Sudan.
Cranes head coach Micho Sredojevic named his final 23-man squad for the 2014 championship but are they better prepared this time?
Most people do not appreciate the work that goes into preparing for a tournament. You have to plan to be there for the whole period and that means visiting all the possible hotels and training venues you will prefer to use.
You do not want to arrive and find that the weather in the four cities chosen to host the tournament (Cape Town, Polokwane, Kimberly and Bloemfontein varies considerably from that in Kampala.
Now that’s not Micho’s responsibility. He needed a team to do that for him we hope that has been done by now.
What the Serbian needed to focus on as soon as the draws were made was gather detailed reports on each of Uganda’s group opponents (Morocco, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe) — their results, goal scorers, assists, crosses, likely line-ups and formations.
He needed that information early enough to allow his players practice how to counter each of their opponents.
I remember in 2011, one of Cranes’ several setbacks was that their opposition had researched enough about them during the Nile Basin tournament in Egypt. Cranes’ CHAN group opponents Sudan, Algeria and Gabon had scouts in Cairo and had gathered all the necessary information about Uganda’s strengths and weaknesses.
Among the weaknesses that the three countries must have discovered was the lack of height and pace at the back in Bobby Williamson’s side.
Although Cranes back-four back then was clustered with reasonable experience, they clearly lacked aerial cover and that crucially cost the team throughout the tournament.
The Cranes lacked tactical discipline and a ‘Plan B’ in the event that their top performers had an off-day at the office. Is the current team better? No. Can they improve? Yes.
There are elements within the team that need to be fixed before the championship this month, areas that I trust Micho to sort.
Micho has chosen his 23 preferred players for the championship that starts next week. PHOTO/Mpalanyi Ssentongo
The Serbian has shown his tactical prowess in previous games. He has impressed in most of his primary roles – that is chose the right tactics, select the right players, squeeze the best performances out of them and make tactical adjustments where necessary.
Micho has chosen his 23 preferred players for the championship that starts next week and I hope it’s a group of warriors ready to go pound for pound with the opposition.
Ochan Benjamin, Watenga Ismail, Kimera
Ali One area I don’t feel comfortable with is the goalkeeping position, where Benjamin Ochan is still a work in progress. His game reading and grip of the ball is suspect. Watenga and Kimera are his deputies. But are they any better?
Iguma Denis, Martin Mpuga, Kasaga Richard, Muleme Isaac, Kabugo Savio, Aloro Rogers
Aloro and Muleme are likely to occupy the full-back positions on the right and left respectively with Kasagga and Kabugo as the central pairing. It is clearly a youthful back four that lacks experience. That said, its championships like this that churn new stars. Hopefully the four will rise to the occasion.
Ntambi Julius, Kyeyune Said, Kyambade Allan, Kayizzi Vincent, Mugerwa Yasser, Brian Majwega, Ivan Ntege, Mpande Joseph and Hassan Wasswa
There is a feeling that Micho might continue gambling with defender Denis Iguma in midfi eld. And that means the Victoria University captain could sit alongside Hassan Wasswa. The two are not natural midfi elders but will be tasked with the responsibilities of breaking up attacks, engineering play and forcing the opposition midfi eld into their own half.
Asiku Crespo, Olaki Francis, Okwi Simon, Sentamu Yunus
This is an entirely new cast for the team that is short of experience but with plenty of potential. With Frank Kalanda out of contention, the stage is set for Olaki.
The Soana striker has previously been overshadowed by his brother Emmanuel Okwi but there is enough to suggest that this could be his stage to announce his raw qualities. All Micho needs to do is identify his right attacking partner.
CHAN: Cranes under real scrutiny