By Fred Kaweesi
ONE excuse Cranes will not have marching into Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Senegal is discomfort.
At least team coach Micho Sredojevic testifies that, even before his 23-man squad checks into the luxurious 5 star Le Meridien N’fis Hotel this morning.
“We are booked at the Le Meridien N’Fis and so far everything has gone to plan. I must say our stay in Istanbul, Turkey has been great. We thank Tuskon (the Confederation of business men and industrialists of Turkey) for enabling us camp here for three days. The general secretary Mustafa Gunay (Uganda’s honorary consul of Uganda in Istanbul) has been of great help,” said Micho.
“They offered us VIP treatment in everything and the team is really motivated for the game.”
Marrakesh is a city of the future and a land of opportunities. New structures have been developed, but its true identity, the one thing that completely defines this city, remains intact, the same, as its heat and natural charm, which attracts tourists from all over the world.
Le Meridien N’Fis hotel which is seated on five-and-a half hectares of lush Andalusian gardens in the Menara district of Marrakech, just outside the city walls, embodies this spirit.
The Cranes will feel at home at the hotel that is as private and luxurious as it gets.
The hotel’s facilities include three world-class restaurants, spa facilities, and easy access to two of the finest golf courses in Morocco, a bar, swimming pool, terrace and tennis courts etc.
Although Micho is a man who normally spends his early evenings in camp taking players through recorded footage of the opponents’ ahead, each player will retire to a room equipped with in-room movies and television satellite channels and AC.
“This should not be seen as trying to make the players very comfortable but offering them an environment that will enable them concentrate on the job ahead,” Micho pointed.
The odds are firmly placed in favour of the star-studded Senegalese, who despite the absence of first team stars Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, need just a draw to progress to the play-offs.
On the evidence of the first leg 1-1 draw between the two sides, while Cranes’ players must perform at the very peak of their powers, the coaching staff must be spot-on with major selection decisions.
Micho’s plan will, aside from danger man Dame Ndoye, have to highlight the menace of players such as Sadio Mane (Salzburg/Austria), Moussa Sow (Fenerbahce/ Turkey), and Mame Birame Diouf (Hannover/Germany) and allow no room for all six to dictate the tempo of the match.
Working on strategy
Throughout training in Istanbul, Micho has tried to stress the importance of keeping the ball and, for the long periods when Senegal have it, to “stay compact and keep the shape” and pressurise their creative stars.
As much as Cranes must score, they will need to be patient.
Among Micho’s several instructions will be not to concede free-kicks within 35 yards of Denis Onyango’s goal.
If Cranes review the first meeting against Senegal, they will discover that among the areas of concern was Ndoye’s threat in set-piece situations.
It will be less of a worry if Onyango doesn’t venture off his line and if the back four keep mistakes to a minimum.
Over the last couple of months, Micho has been credited for Cranes’ impressive run in both the World Cup and Africa Nations Championship qualifiers.
But the Lions of Teranga will present an unfamiliar challenge that even his broad shoulders will find somewhat too heavy to carry.
“We will try to do what is necessary. We have worked on several areas both practically and in theory,” Micho stated.
Senegal arrives in Morocco today as well.