Goal-shy Cranes have work cut out

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Goal-shy Cranes have work cut out
Goal-shy Cranes have work cut out

Africa-PressUganda. After 221 minutes, the Cranes finally opened their account in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers. Fahad Bayo’s smash-and-grab match winner in Kigali and an almost carbon copy decisive strike in Kitende could yet make Uganda’s campaign splutter to life.

Just as was the case at Kigali Regional Stadium, a clearance from a Rwandan player fell nicely for the Israel-based forward to finish with aplomb.

Two goalless draws against Kenya and Mali had left Cranes fans numb with fear that their team was destined to collapse in yet another Johnny McKinstry-esque heap.

It still could, but all indications are that Cranes players will have the bit between their teeth when they entertain already eliminated Kenya during the second weekend of next month.

It’s amazing what successive 1-0 wins can do!

Yet the fact the Cranes beat Group E wooden spoon Rwanda by the slimmest of margins when they could and should have put an exclamation mark on results in Kigali and Kitende strikes one as very telling.

It also goes a long way in vindicating observers that always strain to typecast Micho Sredojevic as a pragmatic coach.

By deploying three combative midfielders in Khalid Aucho, Taddeo Lwanga and Bobosi Byaruhanga, Micho left little to the imagination as to what his principal goal in Kigali was.

One of the most insightful endorsements of Micho’s tactics came when the home side hauled off Meddie Kagere in the 86th minute. The pained expression on the 34-year-old striker’s face said it all, and it was an outcome to which Micho lent his formidable presence and shackling nous.

Clean sheets

Kagere played 90 minutes of the reverse fixture in Kitende, another listless display as Uganda notched a fourth straight shutout. The clean sheets notwithstanding, Micho’s second stint as Cranes coach has mirrored the first insofar as goals have been in scant supply.

In Kigali, Steven Mukwala missed two gilt-edged chances to make the scoreline more emphatic. One of the fluffed chances jolted Geoffrey Massa to the point that he turned to remonstrate with his fellow Cranes backroom staff.

Cynics were quick to notice the irony in the reaction because profligacy seemed to be the retired striker’s middle name during Micho’s first stint as Cranes coach.

If goals end up deciding who in Group E advances to the final qualifying round, the doubleheader will doubtless figure prominently. After the Cranes huffed and puffed to marginal 1-0 wins, Mali put on a scoring clinic against Kenya.

Norway-based forward, Ibrahima Koné plundered a first half treble during a 5-0 rout in Morocco. He then decided the reverse fixture in Nairobi, leaving Mali not just two points but also – crucially – five goals ahead of Uganda.

After playing away to Rwanda, Mali will entertain Uganda on matchday six. Since the second tiebreaker after points tallied is goal difference, Les Aigles could advance if they follow up a win in Kigali by avoiding defeat against Uganda.

For Uganda, the calculus sounds pretty straightforward – win both your remaining fixtures and you are home and dry. They can also progress with a comprehensive win over Kenya (eclipising Les Aigles’ five-goal differential) and a draw ‘away’ to Mali.

To pull this second permutation off, the Cranes will have to break with the passivity and conformism that has come to define Micho.

Uganda Cranes results

Kenya 0 – 0 Uganda

Uganda 0 – 0 Mali

Rwanda 0 – 1 Uganda

Uganda 1 – 0 Rwanda

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