By Pius Magala
FOOTBALL. The feeling for many a Ugandan fan when the draws for the 2019 Afcon qualifiers were made was that Uganda had been placed in a relatively easy group. In free-falling Cape Verde, stomach weaker neighbours Tanzania and strugglers Lesotho, Ugandans scented victories long before the group games kicked off.
But tomorrow, the Cranes can make the first step in establishing that when they play the second game on the day in Group L away to Cape Verde.
The Cranes come into the game much changed from the team that featured at Afcon for the first time in 39 years with only 10 survivors from the 23-man squad that travelled to Gabon in January.
Captain Geoffrey Massa has since retired with the armband passed on Denis Onyango, who will start in goal.
On the basis of Tuesday’s warm up game against Senegal Micho could spring a surprise and start the more aggressive Bernard Muwanga of SC Villa ahead of Timothy Awany, who has impressed for KCCA in continental encounter.
The rest of the backline is expected to comprise Nicholas Wadada, Godfrey Walusimbi and Murshid Jjuuko.
With Micho known to favour a defensive approach and Cape Verde seen as Cranes’ strongest opponents in the group, Hassan Wasswa and Khalid Aucho will be joined by the Isaac Muleme.
Upfront, the Serbian tactician could again start with the industry and pace of Farouk Miya, Emmanuel Okwi and Derrick Nsibambi as they seek to catch the opposition on the break.
Past history between the two teams indicates a close game with the hosts winning 1-0 in 2004 and Geoffrey Sserunkuma scoring the lone goal a year later for a similar scoreline.
The veteran striker is this time expected be one of several options off the bench.
According to Cranes media officer Hamza Nsereko, however, the team will arrive in groups with the first of seven players; Shaban Muhammad, Nsibambi, Okwi, Sserunkuma, Muleme, Bernard Muwanga and Robert Kakeeto, expected in Cape Verde today.
The other 11 are meanwhile due on match-day.
Cape Verde, who missed out on the 2017 Afcon edition qualified for the continental showpiece in 2013 and 2015.
They will rely on a number of European based including forwards Zé Luís and Garry Rodrigues from Spartak Moscow and Galatasaray respectively.
Another player to watch out for is Portuguese born Hélder Tavares who scored in the 2-0 win over Luxembourg in March.