By Fred Kaweesi
Nations Cup Qualifier (Saturday)
Uganda v Madagascar
Open stands: Sh20,000/=
MAY 18, 2014 is a calendar date that Cranes defender Joseph Ochaya would want to fast-forget.
Why? It reminds him of that fateful Sunday afternoon at the 8000-capacity Rabemananjara stadium, where everything conspired to work against him during Cranes’ 2-1 defeat against Madagascar.
The left-back could neither track his direct opponent Njiva Rakotoharimalala, who beat him for the hosts’ second goal, nor could he support his Cranes teammates venturing forward.
In his 63 minutes on the pitch, he looked as static as a traffic cone. Suffice to say, he had an outing to forget but one he is clearly determined to put right when Cranes confront Madagascar in the second leg at Namboole Stadium on Saturday.
“People should not judge me by one game. The conditions weren’t perfect for me. The artificial pitch wasn’t good at all and the weather was also too hot,” Ochaya told New Vision Sport on Tuesday.
“The conditions weren’t really good. They (Madagascar) were comfortable because they are used to the environment. I can do much better than I did,” he added.
Normally, Godfrey Walusimbi should start at left-back. But the pint-sized defender, who turns out for Kenyan side Gor Mahia, was suspended for both legs against Madagascar because of the straight red card he collected against Senegal in Morocco during the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Who are the options?
KCCA star Brian Majwega and Isaac Muleme are the other candidates capable of occupying left-back.
Goalkeeper Denis Onyango wore protective head gear during training as he recovers from a recent head injury. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Striker Godfrey Massa who missed the first leg joined up with the rest of the team this week. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Majwega, is ideally a fine attacking player but when drifted at left-back, he thrills and threatens the opposition with the ball at his feet.
On the other hand, Muleme is less experienced but a strong character. He has an arrogant approach where the ball and opponent cannot go past him at the same time. The only concern is whether Ochaya, Majwega and Muleme will be able to hold their own against the mercurial Rakotoharimalala.
“He is not a dangerous opponent to defend. The most dangerous player actually faced Iguma (Denis) on the right. If I get a chance of playing on Saturday, I will show what I can do,” Ochaya stated.
Ochaya’s pledge, in case he starts, must count as Cranes will not afford errors against a Madagascar outfit that is extremely lethal in attack.
Among the key issues coach Micho Sredejovic will try to review this entire week is how to fix that left-back dilemma and organise the back-four that looked disjointed in the first leg. Centre half Isaac Isinde might be considered.
Geoffrey Massa’s return to fitness will offer Cranes that much-needed impetus in attack.
“I feel much better. I am able to compete with less pain now,” said Massa.
Kenya-based players Geoffrey Kizito, Dan Sserunkuuma and Khalid Aucho joined the team on Tuesday.