The absence of strikers Yunus Sentamu and Muhammad Shaban from The Cranes team that travelled to Tanzania for the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier created more worries for coach Micho’s goal-shy side.
The Cranes take on a highly- fancied Kilimanjaro Stars in the two-legged affair, with the first leg match set for this Sunday, August 28 at the Benjamin Mkapa stadium in Dar-es-Salaam. The second leg is scheduled for September 3 at the St Mary’s stadium, Kitende.
Considering the fact that the Cranes have struggled to score goals in their recent qualification campaigns, coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic faces an uphill task in his attempt to end the team’s goal-drought. In their recent friendly matches with Ethiopia, the Cranes failed to score any goals after losing 0-1 and drew goalless.
During the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the Cranes scored three goals in six games. A similar tally was realized in the 2021 Afcon qualifiers. It is against such background that many remain skeptical the Cranes can eliminate Tanzania. Yet, Fufa expect nothing less than qualification to the CHAN Finals due next year from January 8 to 23 in Algeria.
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Decolas Kiiza, the Fufa deputy CEO in charge of football said: “We have provided the team with everything they need, so it is up to them to perform.”
Apart from the first CHAN tournament in 2009, for which Cranes did not qualify, after losing 1-3 to Tanzania on aggregate, Uganda has been to all the subsequent five events since.
It is on that basis too, that Fufa sees qualification to Chan as supposed routine Micho said the focus is on the final touches, to get the team ready for the double header.
Yet, when asked about the fact that Cranes has no defined centre-forward this time, and whether it would not be an issue, he preferred not to answer.
His predecessors had Patrick Kaddu, Fahad Bayo, Ben Ocen, Mike Mutyaba, Allan Okello, and Steven Mukwala among others to call on in the 2020 qualifiers.
They easily put to bed Somalia and Burundi. Perhaps, there is more than meets the eye, to explain the conundrum Micho finds himself in, having no out-and-out centre-forward.
Shaban was the Uganda Premier League’s second top-scorer in the 2021/22 season with 15 goals, while Sentamu had 14. Apparently, these players are not interested in the national team because of delays in their payments.
But to Fufa’s defence, they have said intermittently, that while payments may delay, all players are informed in time about the process, although some are simply impatient.
That aside, recently, Cranes left-back Joseph Ochaya, who plies his trade at TP Mazembe said in a radio interview that some players are on the national team, because they have god-fathers in Fufa; that there is favouritism, which keeps deserving players out in the cold, while the unworthy make the team.
Such has created despondency, which is killing the team. Kiiza dismissed such allegations.