After securing a somewhat fair result against Africa champions Zambia, Cranes will now attempt to overcome Zambia in Kampala on October 13, writes Fred Kaweesi
By Fred Kaweesi in Ndola, Zambia
After securing a somewhat fair result against Africa champions Zambia, Cranes will now attempt to end 34 years of heartbreak by overcoming Zambia in Kampala on October 13.
Of course, considering the heartbreaking fashion in which Uganda’s ultimate qualifier against Kenya ended last year, not many Cranes faithful will look forward to the return game with optimism.
But we must believe. The Red Sea was parted after the 1-0 defeat in Ndola, but we can stop the waves crashing down on us and script a new chapter in decades if certain factors are resolved before the explosive qualifier next month.
I have not watched a player that is as central or pivotal to a team’s success as Rainford Kalaba is for Zambia.
When Kalaba performs, the Chipolopolo also shine. When he fades, the rest of the team fades as well.
His teammates call him ‘The Master’.
On Saturday, the master performed in bits and that affected Zambia’s attacking play.
When Cranes suffocated him and forced him wide, Emmanuel Mayuka and Christopher Katongo were no more. The two were effectively frozen as both rely on Kalaba’s final through pass to inflict damage on the opposition.
Hassan Wasswa, Godfrey Kizito and Tony Mawejje passed the first test with flying colours. Can they do that again on October 13? They must, if Cranes are to stand a chance.
Fast and deceptive, Kalaba is an instinctive goal-poacher who can also run the channels or shoot from outside the box. The Cranes simply have to continue doing what they did at the Mwanawasa Stadium.
Focus and discipline at the back
Of course, Cranes back-four must be blamed for Christopher Katongo’s goal on 21 minutes. They failed to track the Chipolopolo captain and paid the price.
But equally important was the fact that the same back-four recovered well to nullify the threat that Katongo and Mayuka posed.
They all worked for each other to nullify the skillful Southampton striker Mayuka.
Team captain Andrew Mwesigwa shackled the Premiership striker with immense success that he had to be replaced by James Chamanga just after half time.
Without the two, Zambia have no goals in them.
Cranes two central defenders will however have to design a strategy that will counter Jonas Sakuwaha’s inroad dribbling that troubled them for large spells of the second half.
Massa is a must
Normally when the stakes are high, any football coach would do anything to have his big-game players available.
True, Emmanuel Okwi has plenty of potential, but it will be extremely important that Geoffrey Massa makes the return game in Kampala –– whether fit or not.
Okwi is an imperious figure for the Cranes and has excelled in the fixtures he has played.
But for the fixture in Kampala, Cranes will need Massa’s pace and energy to open the Zambian back-four commanded by the gangly and physical Stophira Sunzu.
Okwi will still start and run the channels well like he has done before. But he will need Massa (top) to draw the attention of Sunzu and Hichani Himoonde if he is to stand a chance of sniffing on goal.
He struggled to match the pair through the entire game at the Mwanawasa Stadium and did not have a single shot on target.
Wasswa must shield the back-four
If there was a reason Zambia struggled to find their usual rhythm through midfield, it had a lot to do with Wasswa’s combative display.
The Turkey-based midfielder won all tackles and dictated play. He had aerial presence and physical nous to win every ball from one of Zambia’s pillars Isaac Chansa.
However, Wasswa will have to shield the back-four better to thwart the kind of penetrative runs into the box that Chamanga crafted deep into the second half.
Play a patient game
Zambia get men behind the ball and play a fluid-passing game, making it hard for the opposition.
Williamson’s side did well in Ndola by not panicking when things weren’t going for them early in the game.
They stayed patient and that’s where they got their joy.
A few years back, Cranes would have tried to force it but the team has that inner confidence now that, sooner or later in game, they are capable of winning even with an odd goal on the counter.
They did that against Congo and it could still work in the return.
Bobby should be in control
One of the distasteful aspects of Saturday’s game was the sight of several instructors on Cranes technical bench.
We had Bobby Williamson, who is supposed to be in charge of the team, assistants Jackson Mayanja and Fred Kajoba, then FUFA vice president in charge of the Uganda Super League Mujib Kasule shouting instructions.
I imagine Kasule travelled to Ndola as part of the executive, not as an assistant to Bobby.
His presence on the team’s bench was unnecessary interference in Bobby’s responsibilities. He was never supposed to be on the bench and should not be, as his office is too big for that.
At one stage, Hamis Kiiza and a couple of other players were confused. They did not know whose instructions to take.
Bobby must be respected and left to handle the team’s tactical matters marching into the return game.
How Cranes can tame Zambia