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Uganda Cranes deserve all the plaudits

By Aldrine Nsubuga

Added 28th October 2018 12:00 AM

While it’s too early to praise Desabre, he has eventually delivered under pressure

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While it’s too early to praise Desabre, he has eventually delivered under pressure

First it looked like an accident. Now, it’s turning into a habit. Qualifying for the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

After 39 years of waiting, it looked like a miracle. But two years following AFCON Gabon 2017, the qualification for Cameroon 2019 has been so easy, all Uganda requires is a point from the remaining two games.

An away game against Tanzania and a home game against Cape Verde.

In some countries heroes are born. For Uganda Cranes, heroes are made. Dennis Onyango and Farouk Miya are the new Uganda heroes who have become synonymous with AFCON.

Onyango’s heroics

Onyango; the captain and chief commander of the back-line is already becoming a legend in Ugandan colours.

One of only two nations in the current campaign yet to concede a goal in four matches, Uganda’s defensive solidity has caught the attention of the continent.

South Africa is the other nation yet to concede but it’s the consistency of Uganda, who conceded just two goals in the Gabon 2017 qualification campaign, that elevates Onyango from the rest.

Even when the Cranes have not been at their best in games, there have been instances in almost every game when Onyango single handedly kept the opponents at bay with his instinctive saves.

Add his command of the goal area, his almighty presence and his leadership, you see a national hero who has now turned into an icon.

Miya’s heroism takes a different path from Onyango. The Gorica FC striker has been inconsistent and his form this year, a far cry from the form that saw him become the top player in the Gabon 2017 qualifying campaign.

But when the decisive moment came, the former Vipers SC striker again showed up. Before Lesotho’s visit to Kampala last Saturday, Miya had scored just a single international goal in 2018; against Niger in a friendly match in which Cranes lost 1-2 back in June.

His penalty set the Cranes up for an eventual 3-0 win and then on Tuesday, two more goals virtually secured Uganda’s Cameroon 2019 finals spot.

History will show that Miya’s goal against Comoros at Nambole in 2016 secured the Cranes air tickets to Gabon and now, his two goals against Lesotho away have all but sealed that needed finals place.

He still hasn’t enjoyed the demi-god status that David Obua or Ibrahim Sekagya had during their decade-long international careers, but his fortuitous goals, all decisive in character, have delivered the nation to the Promised Land.

In this current campaign, Godfrey Walusimbi, Murushid Jjuko, Hassan Wasswa and Nicholas Wadada have played their part in forming an unbreakable defensive unit but so has Khalid Aucho whose intelligence and calmness have always helped to maintain the solid shape.

Their sum has contributed to what Africa might well consider to be the best defence in the campaign. They are the ones who ensured that where a win proved elusive, at least there was never a worry about the possibility of defeat.

Desabre’s moment

The man on trial has been French coach Sebastian Desabre. After failing to deliver wins in 10 out of 11 games in charge, he has delivered the six most important points of the campaign.

After fumbling with the team that failed to beat Tanzania, he returned with some bold decisions for the two games against Lesotho.

First, the shock exclusion of Kizito Luwagga and Yunus Sentamu from the squad and then, the surprise naming of Edirisa Lubega alongside Miya and Emma Okwi. All three combined devastatingly to down Lesotho.

In the return game last Tuesday, the Frenchman belatedly named Allan Kateregga, the flair-filled left footed attacking midfielder in the starting line-up. Kateregga proved an instant hit and was a menace for the Lesotho defence.

While it’s too early to praise Desabre, he has eventually delivered under pressure. That alone is a quality worth picking out.

Qualifying in a group that has Cape Verde, Lesotho and Tanzania may have looked easy, but Uganda has failed before in front of home fans to get past Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia.

There are no easy wins in football anymore. Well done boys.

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