By Fred Kaweesi in Marrakech
2014 World Cup Qualifier
Senegal 1 Uganda 0
Angola 4 Liberia 1
JUST minutes after Uganda’s World Cup qualifying hopes had been shattered inside the Marrakesh Stadium on Saturday night, the Cranes gathered for a brief talk that ended with prayer.
Stimulation rather than recrimination was the theme.
Coach Micho Sredojevic, a figure that had largely been responsible for the team’s resurgence in the campaign, had started the healing process.
Rather than dwell so much on the 1-0 defeat to Senegal that had ultimately ended all dream talk of a place in the final play-offs, the Serbian opted to preach over the pros of the campaign and how qualifying for the 2015 Africa Nations Cup tournament in the same country (Morocco) was a more realistic and achievable target now than ever before.
Cranes enjoyed a bright start but failed to capitalise and score an early goal. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
“We are not only ready for AFCON 2015 but we will be competitive too,” Micho told the media after watching his Cranes 10-man side collapse at the hands of Sadio Mane’s 84th minute goal.
Cranes have suffered a series of false dawns in their quest to qualify for major tournaments.
And despite pushing Group J favourites Senegal to the last day of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Uganda, just like its failures in the Africa Nations Cup, still fell short at the last hurdle.
But such is the progress that Cranes have made over the last four months that Micho is more than convinced of his side’s qualities and stature among the big boys of African football.
Micho gets animated on the touchline during the game. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Cranes best chance fell to Hamis Kizza early during the 2nd half. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Senegal scored late leaving Uganda with very little time to conjure up a reply. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Indeed, the Cranes provided compelling evidence of that considering that they lost Godfrey Walusimbi to a straight red card in the 36th minute for a bad foul on Gassama Lamine but still commanded play.
Micho’s team produced a performance high on defensive quality, commitment and organisation to prove how the gulf in class between them and perennial campaigners such as Senegal had significantly reduced.
“We showed quality and resistance after the red card. We exhibited good tactical approach and for me this game was affected by three key moments; the red card, the attempted goal miss by Hamis Kiiza and the third goal we went on to concede,” he pointed.
“I thought we did our best. From the look of the performance, we have moved one step forward. We were very competitive and now know which areas we must improve.
Micho consoles striker Emma Okwi after the final whiste. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
SOLITARY: Frank Kalanda looked disconsolate after the defeat. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Captain Andy Mwesigwa ponders during the post-match press conference. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
“We are looking forward to a bright future,” he added.
At the moment, Micho will turn his focus in preparing the Cranes team for the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) in January next year.
Two weeks ago, Micho presented FUFA a master plan that —if followed —would adequately prepare for the championships. The plan included securing a training base in South Africa, two weeks before CHAN starts.