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Uganda’s Afcon reality check starts at Last 16 stage

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Cranes XI against Zimbabwe

I was one of the many who were surprised by Uganda’s relatively easy win over DR Congo in the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

The Congolese were favourites but from the onset, they seemed out of place and couldn’t put any passes together. The key aspect here is that The Cranes’ approach of containing the opponent so as to disrupt their style of play worked wonders and made DR Congo’s established names such as Cedric Bakambu and Yannick Bolassie look pedestrian for most parts of the game.

Misagga (L) and EAC MP Hon. Mukasa Mbidde recently

Most importantly, the game served to mask Uganda’s deficiencies, especially in creativity. We heavily rely on wing-play with minimal inter-play in the opponent’s half. It is not surprise both goals came from set-pieces. There were numerous times I hoped Allan Okello was on the team, especially during counter-attacks when our players found it fine to simply make square passes.

It is the very reason the name of Abdu Lumala, a previously unknown player, stood out as the most eye-catching player. He was able to torment his marker on the right wing, something that had eluded Luwagga Kizito at elite level.

Afcon starts at Last 16 level

Away from the style and technique, I’ve noted how some Ugandans have hailed the win against DR Congo as monumental. There could only be one thing here; either The Cranes have reached elite level or DR Congo had an awful day on the field.  The next few matches will help make this clear but there is no running away from the fact that The Cranes still have a lot to do to prove doubters wrong.

We are in a newly-expanded Afcon of 24 teams in which just one win from the group stage may likely be enough to make it to the knockout phase.

On that background, it will take a big collapse for Uganda not to make it out of the group.

So, it is at the last-16 level that our real credentials will put to the test because we’ve been knocking at that level for more than a decade.

In other words, our mentality needs to aim higher and we should avoid the trappings of a dull student used to being last in the class. Even when his grades don’t improve, he will celebrate the day he doesn’t finish last in an expanded classroom.

Missing fanfare

Lest we forget, The Cranes’ performance against DR Congo helped to overshadow the inefficiencies off the pitch. For instance, I was appalled to learn that several match tickets allocated to Ugandans at Afcon are being wasted due to limited number of Ugandan fans in Cairo.

Fufa should have foreseen this and instead offered incentives for fans intending to travel for the tournament instead of waiting to cash in at the stadium entrances. For a federation that did no single promotion to get fans to Afcon, you cannot wait to milk a cow you didn’t feed.

Even on Fufa’s media platforms, there is little buzz to woo fans yet our less-fancied neighbours in Kenya even have a special app for all updates regarding their national team in Cairo.

Of recent Fufa president Moses Magogo has been parading ex-internationals like Kasigwa in Kabale, Kulabigwo in Masindi among others. I however believe that taking them to Egypt to watch games would have better than merely giving them priceless accolades. After all, this is their game.

 

The author is Nyamityobora FC president!

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