Sport
I've asked my players to possess the ball —MichoPublish Date: Jan 20, 2014
I've asked my players to possess the ball —Micho
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newvision

By Fred Kaweesi

Africa Nations Championship
Today, 8pm, SS Select 2
Morocco v Uganda
Burkina Faso v Zimbabwe

Keep calm, uphold your discipline and keep in mind the rewards of progressing to the quarterfinals of the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN)!

That will definitely be coach Micho Sredejovic’s briefing ahead of today’s explosive Group B fixture against Morocco at Cape Town Stadium.

The Serbian has taken his charges through replays of Morocco’s previous games, debriefed each player on their direct opponents and emphasized the need to possess the ball a lot better. All that is left now is implementing that tutorial over 90 minutes of tension-packed football.

“We will need endurance and good tactical movement to overcome them,” Micho told New Vision Sport on Saturday.

Hassan Wasswa, Denis Iguma and Said Kyeyune prepare for the contest against Morocco. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga

Cranes have been training at Langa Stadium ahead of the crunch tie. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga

Uganda has four points on top of Group B, two ahead of Zimbabwe, Morocco and three ahead of bottom-placed Burkina Faso. The statistics in the group mean that all four sides can now progress to the quarterfinals and that Cranes must avoid defeat against the Atlas Lions if they are to make a direct entry to the knockout stages.

Of course, a draw between Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe could still favour Uganda even in defeat but experienced regular campaigners in such huge tournaments will tell you that it’s never advisable to rely on situations out of your control.

The maths involved

The permutations below explain why Cranes must avoid defeat.
 

  •  If Burkina Faso beat Zimbabwe and Uganda loses to Morocco, the West Africans will move to four points (the same number with Cranes). It means Uganda and Burkina Faso could then be separated by goal difference to determine who finishes behind Morocco (on five points).

 

The team forms a huddle as Micho delivers innstructions before the session. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga

Midfielder Said Kyeyune is put through his paces. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga

  •  If Zimbabwe beat Burkina Faso and Uganda loses to Morocco, the Warriors will move to five points (one ahead of Uganda). It means Zimbabwe will qualify alongside Morocco. Zimbabwe could still qualify if both Uganda and Morocco also draw.

Uganda’s chances

The situation means that Uganda should beat or at least draw against Morocco to be assured of a direct ticket to the quarterfinals. And they can.

The Cranes beat Morocco 1-0 during the 2011 LG Cup tournament hosted in Marrakech. Hassan Wasswa and Vincent Kayizzi are the only surviving members from the team which achieved that historic result.

All that coach Micho needs to do is assemble the right team, opt for the right formation and remind his charges of their precious qualities —the kind that helped them stun Burkina Faso 2-1 in their first game.

South Africa police overseeing the team's security watch from the sidelines. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga

The Serb is already aware of the underhand tactics that North Africans normally adopt in such decisive fixtures. Chief among them is diving to win penalties or tricking their opponents into unnecessary bookings.

“We will have to be mentally steady to match them. I have lived with North Africans long enough to know what they will try to do to win the game. We will have to be prepared,” he pointed.

The pain in Morocco’s ranks will stem from Brahim El Bahri and Abdelkbir El Ouadi. Cranes back-four marshalled by Savio Kabugo and Richard Kasagga will have to deliver their best performances yet to contain the two.

If midfielders Hassan Wasswa, Ivan Ntege and Denis Iguma can thwart Morocco’s fluid-passing game, possess and pass the ball better, then youngster Yunus Sentamu will come to life.

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