A letter to the Mighty Uganda Cranes

The Uganda Cranes can smile to the bank by defeating Niger and qualifying for AFCON /FUFA image

AFCON2023Q A letter to the Mighty Uganda Cranes

Godwin Buule • 14:59 - 16.06.2023

Micho should opt for an attacking-minded team that will help the team create chances and take them away as they come.

Dear gallant warriors, the time has come again with the massive task of defeating Algeria in Cameroon, Doula, ahead of us on the 18th of June, 2023.

As you may or may not be aware, you are carrying the mandate of over 48 million Ugandans who have always supported you.

As always, the sense of togetherness among Ugandans is beyond imagination. You ought to know the magnitude of the enormous task vested unto you.

The Uganda Cranes in a team talk against Congo | FUFA Image

Individually, I know how hard a task it is facing a North African giant with a host of top European-based players, such as Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, and Ismael Bennacer.

The game against Algeria is a must-win. Anything less than that will dent our qualifying chances as our neighbours Tanzania are also in the hunt for the last remaining qualification slot.

Algeria will be a challenging pushover even though they qualified as Group F winners, already amassing 12 points on the way.

On the pitch, their football has always done the talking with head coach Djamel Belmadi using a formation of 4–1-4-1 and, at times, switching to a 4-3-3.

This has enabled them to have more possession of the ball and create countless chances, evident in the first leg with goalkeeper Charles Lukwago facing over 15 shots.

Algeria has game changers that can dismantle our team setup, i.e. Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez and a couple of other players, as seen in the first leg.

Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez during training | Algeria Football Federation Image

31-year-old AC Ajaccio midfielder Youcef Belaili caused all kinds of problems for the young and inexperienced Gavin Kizito deployed in the right-back position.

Milton Karisa surged back to give a hand in defending, but Belaili scored a goal in the 80th minute after dribbling through a pile of Ugandan players.

At the same time, Rachid Ghezzal tormented Isaac Muleme plus Joseph Ochaya on the left-hand side of the Cranes' defence.

Milton Karisa came close to equalizing for Uganda against Congo | FUFA

The midfield possession-based play by AC Milan's Ismael Benaccer and company led to midfielder Khalid Aucho fouling on the edge of the box.

And the resulting set piece tapped in after a selfless play from striker Islam Slimani.

The above tells how attentive head coach Djemal Belmadi is to the small details that can change the game.

The most significant advantage now is that one of the team leaders and midfield kingpin Ismael Bennacer will be out of this game after undergoing a knee operation.

It may give us a breather, but Algeria has many quality players in the squad, and this is where head coach Micho has to earn his credentials.

Uganda has experienced players, for example, Emmanuel Okwi, Farouk Miya, Khalid Aucho, and Salim Jamal, and young talents like Rogers Mato, who scored the winner against Tanzania away in Dar es Salam.

Vipers SC captain Milton Karisa, midfielder Travis Mutyaba, U20 captain Ismail Mugulusi, and budding Bobosi Byaruhanga, whose array of long-range passes can help the Cranes quickly transition from defence to attack.

Majorly there is a need to have a positive attacking mindset from the start of the game until the end.

Micho should opt for an attacking-minded team that will help the team create chances and take them away as they come.

In a game like this, where we need a win, the little details will make a difference, so Micho and the team should ensure they allow Algeria only a little bit of time on the ball to create chances.

And whoever will play on the left and right side of the midfield should be able to offer defensive support to the right and left backs.

It will help to close out the pocket spaces where Algeria can make their runs and create a host of chances.

In defending, the back line should be able to keep composed and balanced whenever threatened with attacks and, at most, avoid giving unnecessary fouls on the edge of the box.

Close the spaces where the Cranes goalkeeper Jamal Salim Magoola will not be on the receiving end of shots taken at the Cranes' goal.

Suppose the Cranes are to have a decent result against the already qualified and off-pressure Algeria. It would be best if you had the belief and mentality that winning against Algeria is possible.

As did the Cranes team in 1974, who famously won 2-1 courtesy of goals from Ashe Mukasa and Dennis Obua, giving Uganda that vital win at Nakivubo Stadium.

And went to Oran in Algeria and picked up a 1-1 draw, with Polly Ouma scoring in the return leg, which helped Uganda qualify for the upcoming AFCON Finale.

All Said, I wish You, the Mighty Cranes, the best come Sunday.