By Fred Kaweesi
Nations Cup qualifier at Namboole
Uganda v Madagascar (Saturday kick off at 4pm EAT)
When Cranes confronted Madagascar during the first leg of their 2015 Nations Cup qualifier on May 18, they had no idea of the opponents in waiting.
Cranes were as clueless of the entire Madagascar side as their display proved at the 8000-capacity Rabemananjara Stadium. There was an element of unpredictability about this Island outfit.
Madagascar, just like the other Island teams such as Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau, have embraced a system of naturalising talent from various parts of Europe, with hope of competing well.
The squads keep changing and you never know what’s coming until you confront them. That’s how Cranes landed in an ambush.
The Cranes collapsed to a 2-1 defeat but it could have been worse. But a lot of water has passed through the bridge since that fixture.
Hamis Diego Kizza set to lead the Cranes front line
Lessons were learnt and the Cranes now have a clear picture of who the opponent is and what needs to be done to overturn the first leg defeat to guarantee progress in the qualifying campaign. Cranes need a 1-0 win to guarantee progress in the competition.
“We have worked on so many aspects that cost us in the first leg. The spirits are high and all the players want to play. I will find it challenging to choose who to leave out,” Cranes head coach Micho Sredojevic told Saturday Vision.
Half of the Madagascar team ply their professional football in respectable leagues across Europe. A majority are based in France.
What Cranes must do For Cranes to secure a momentous win, they will have to frustrate Madagascar’s three most infl uential star players Carolus Andriamatsinoro, Njiva Rakotoharimalala and Baggio Rakotonomenjanahary.
Of course Madagascar’s quality as a team goes far beyond just the abilities of the three players — the whole team acts as a fluid force and their collective pressing is what makes them such a tricky side but it will be vital that Cranes restrict the three.
The question of how to deal with Rakotonomenjanahary, however, raises questions over more than one area of the pitch.
A common misconception is that the only way to stop him is to man-mark him with one designated player. On the evidence of the first meeting between the two sides, it will be crucial to mark the space, rather than the man and this is where Dennis Iguma and the back four must step to the plate.
Cranes coach Micho could go for a 4-3-3 scheme
It’s likely that Micho will go with a 4-3-3 formation, which will arguably offer the best of both worlds for the team.
Offensively, it will allow Tony Mawejje to drop back and mark Henry Charles Gladyson — a vital role considering the way Gladyson sets Madagascar’s tempo.
If Cranes hand strikers Geoffrey Massa and Emanuel Okwi support, the two will work their magic, the sort of magic that helped Uganda overturn a 3-1 first leg defeat against Congo Brazzaville for a 5-3 aggregate win in 2012.
Micho has asked his charges to compress the game, keep the tempo as high as possible, in the belief that it will expose Madagascar. Egyptian FIFA referee Mohamed Farouk Muhamoud will handle the game.
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