The Cranes coach Sebastien Desabre expects his side to beat the Tanzania Kilimanjaro Stars this weekend in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier, to cap an unbeaten campaign, writes JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE.
Of the last 15 competitive games, that Uganda has played Tanzania in the last decade, The Cranes have won 11 and drawn four. In fact, Tanzania’s last victory over Uganda, was back in early 2008 during an African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifier, that ended 2-0 in Dar es Salaam.
That was during the reign of coach Laszlo Csaba. As such, Tanzania is expected to come out guns blazing, to re-write the bad record. But Cranes will also not be short on motivation to maintain their stranglehold on this tie, seeing that this weekend’s clash in Dar es Salaam is an audition for many players, to make the final 23 for the 2019 Afcon.
Players like KCCA FC attacker Allan Okello and Vipers SC centre-back Halid Lwaliwa will be pleased to have made the final squad to Tanzania. This brings them closer to the real thing - Afcon. The two have previously been overlooked. For starters, Okello was seen as young and inexperienced, while Lwaliwa was kept out of action by injuries.
But Okello’s continental exploits for his club and Lwaliwa’s consistency should be a big boost to their chances. In addition, the other home-based players, Sadam Juma, Moses Waiswa, Allan Kyambadde, Patrick Kaddu and Timothy Awany should feel confident of their positions, barring injury.
But for the foreign-based players, that were overlooked this time round, their situation cannot be good. Their case, the likes of Martin Kizza, Allan Kateregga, Derrick Nsibambi, Isaac Muleme, Godfrey ‘Baba’ Kizito and Kizito Luwaga, is made worse because players such as Godfrey Walusimbi and Hassan Wasswa have kept their places in the team, despite having no clubs at the moment.
In many ways, Desabre appears to have already picked his team. Although, it does not augur well, for someone who preaches competition in his squad, to pick players that are inactive. What would be the basis? Unless the argument is that some players are untouchable regardless.
Because The Cranes qualified last November, following the 1-0 win over Cape Verde at Namboole stadium, many expected that coach Desabre would rest his star players this time. And instead, give his fringe players, say, goalkeepers Salim Jamal, Robert Odongkara or Charles Lukwago a run-out to prove how well they can do on the big stage when Denis Onyango is not around.
The number two goalkeeper slot is still up for grabs. But even more interesting, will be who of the three will be ultimately dropped from the final Afcon squad. Yet, before that, Desabre wants to finish on a high. In five qualification matches, Cranes have won four and drawn one without conceding a goal.
Desabre believes that a positive result in Tanzania, will enable his charges go into the tournament in Egypt this June, with confidence, as a winning mentality will have been built. But beating Tanzania before its fans is also tasty. Former Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevich made sure of that, the last time Uganda was there for the 2016 Chan qualifier with a 3-0 thumping, courtesy of a Faruku Miya brace, and an Erisa Ssekisambu strike.
For what it is worth, Tanzania, who only need to win, to qualify for Afcon, can mainly draw inspiration from its 2013 Cecafa quarter-final post-match 3-2 penalty win over Uganda in Mombasa, after the game ended 2-2 in normal time, although even that was technically a draw.