AFCON 2013 Qualifiers Saturday October 13th, Uganda (0) Vs (1) Zambia – Mandela Stadium, Namboole.
Following Uganda’s slim 0-1 loss to Zambia in the first leg of the 2013final round qualifiers at the Levy Mwanawasa stadium in Ndola, large sections of Uganda soccer fans, media and administrators among others have started celebrating that Uganda Cranes is already through to Nations Cup tournament finals in South Africa since we host the return leg. There is a reason to be optimistic but not to the level of writing off Chipolopolo who are already a goal up with 90 minutes left to play. The fact that we have a formidable home record is already a confidence booster but we should not forget that like Zambia which only won by Christopher Katongo’s solitary strike, their record in Ndola is also formidable.After watching the game in Ndola, below are the reasons why it’s too early for Uganda to celebrate breaking the 32 year old jinx; Zambia is still on top; – Despite their profligacy in front of goal in Ndola, Zambia managed to get a goal which Uganda failed and that meant the tie ended 1-0 in their favour. Football is a game of two halves and in this case, Zambia leads at half time. This implies that The Cranes must score first to put the game level before looking for the winner. All this is assumed to happen before Zambia bleaches our goal. Home pressure; – As hosts, the pressure is now on Uganda Cranes to deliver to the expectant capacity crowd and the nation at large. We all know what this can bring to players. This was evidenced in Ndola when the Katongo led side started to rush decisions in panic due to pressure as the clock was ticking towards the 90th minute. Like we saw against Kenya in the previous failed campaign, Ugandan players are not calm and patient enough to keep playing their game as the clock ticks towards the 90 minute mark. Over confidence and complacence;– After the slim defeat in the first leg, Uganda Cranes players may tend to get over confident and complacent which is detrimental in competitive football. This stems from the day the draw for this tie was made, many a national team player celebrated which is not bad but may lead them to forget that in football, it’s not over until it’s over.
Failing when it matters most factor; – It has become a norm in Ugandan football to fail when it matters most. In recent campaigns, we have let opportunities slip through our hands. In the 1994 Afcon qualifiers, we drew goal less with Nigeria when we just needed a win to make it. To make matters worse, Adam Ssemugabi missed a penalty that would have won Uganda the match at Nakivubo. In 2003, we lost to Rwanda’s Amavubi Stars at Namboole Stadium courtesy of Jimmy Gatete’s solitary strike. In the most recently concluded campaign, we lost to Angola’s Palacas Negras 0-2 when a draw is all we needed to qualify for the 2012 edition. Still in the same campaign, Uganda fired blanks against neighbours Kenya in October 2011and again failed to qualify. Porous defence;– Unlike the past campaigns, the Uganda Cranes defence looks a bit porous and easy to penetrate. In the previous six games, the Uganda Cranes has only kept two clean sheets (Congo Brazzaville & Botswana) conceding 6 goals in the process an average of a goal per game. This is threatening given that we need to score at least two un answered goals to go past Zambia. Any goal conceded against Zambia at Namboole will only make the task harder and going by the past few games, it’s not easy ruling out a Zambian goal.
Players match fitness concerns; Let the truth be told, over 75% of the national contingent is idle at the moment with no competitive football to keep them match fit. The fact that they are currently training with the team can’t be watered down but it would have been better if these players were playing active football. Besides Tony Mawejje and Abel Dhaira (Ice Land), Andrew Mwesigwa (Kazakhstan), Henry Kalungi (USA), Hamis Kiiza and Emma Okwi (Tanzania), Isaac Isinde (Ethiopia) and Denis Onyango (South Africa) – he doesn’t start though, the rest of the players are redundant with either their leagues in recess or their clubs released them. This makes playing against Zambians who are active in their leagues a hard task as their fitness level seem to be higher than those of Ugandans. Ugandan football wrangles; If you may ask who has been more affected in the current football circus between Fufa and USL that has given birth to two leagues in the country, it’s the players. First, may like Steven Bengo has been confused to the extent of absconding from league games for his club since it’s divided. Secondly, many are psychologically tortured by the drama considering that they are un sure of what the future holds for them as far as these wrangles are going on. This may go as far disrupting these players come October 13th. Zambia is Africa Champions and neighbours to hosts; – The fact that Chipolopolo are African Champions makes the tie tricky. First, they will need to defend their title in the finals though this comes with its pressure but can also be used as a catalyst to die a little for their country come 13th October at Mandela Stadium, Namboole. However with 11 days to go, some of the above issues can ironed out and the Uganda Cranes break the 34 year old jinx of failure to appear at the continent’s biggest soccer show piece. What is your take?