Uganda Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic insists that his side cannot afford to repeat some of the tactical frailties exposed during their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Rwanda on Sunday.
The Cranes completed a double over rivals and neighbours Rwanda at the St. Mary’s Stadium in Kitende courtesy of Fahad Bayo’s goal in the first half.
Bayo – who scored in back-to-back games against the Amavubi Stars – scored after 22 minutes at Kitende, to cap-off an outstanding and dominant opening quarter of the game.
But the Cranes were second best for periods after taking the lead, and while they did hold on for victory, Micho admitted that he was unimpressed with elements of his side’s defensive and tactical discipline.
The Cranes kept their fourth consecutive clean sheet, but crucially also named pretty much the same defensive line for the first time in over a year.
Charles Lukwago started in goal, while Enock Walusimbi and Timothy Awany – though he was later withdrawn with injury – started in central defence together with Denis Iguma at right back.
The only change was Aziz Kayondo starting at left back with Isaac Muleme starting ahead of him in a wing back role.
“We played against a good team; the Amavubi Stars. Our advantage was scoring at the right time, although the second half was a bit disappointing,” Micho told media after the game on Sunday.
“We are extremely proud to be amongst the only three teams (in the qualifying campaign) that are yet to concede a goal, but I am very disappointed with our approach especially after taking the lead.”
“I felt we were really sitting very deep and allowed opponents to get several set pieces. However, most importantly we are happy with the eight points we have collected so far,” the Serbian added.
Micho faces demands to have his team play on the front foot, admits that his side will have to be tactfully astute in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
While there have been concerns over his pragmatic approach, especially in the previous qualifiers, Micho says that his young side still has some growing up to do.
“The approach after taking the lead is always to be subconscious in order to manage the game and see out a win but that is supposed to be done by defending much higher and possessing the ball, instead they dropped back allowing the opponent to dominate,” Micho noted.
“Of course, when the team is in transition, some aspects do not come automatically and instead of defending much higher, they dropped off, just to maintain the game and grind out a result.”
“We are still very far from our best version, but the character of champions is that even when you are not playing well you are still grinding out results. So, from today we shall forget all other things except three points in our bag,” The Cranes coach said.
“We have been in such a situation of crucial last matches before and we shall therefore only need to grind on and keep the character of a winning team no matter the situation.”
“From now onwards, what we are looking at the two remaining fixtures and how we can navigate through them in order to make the final qualification round,” he continued.
The Cranes are second in their qualifying group E, two points behind leaders Mali who lead the way with on 10 points after back-to-back victories over Kenya.
Uganda will aim at making it through to the final qualifying round when the Qatar 2022 qualifiers resume next month in November where they face Kenya in the penultimate qualifier in Kampala before what could be the decisive game against Mali in Morocco.
How they lined up:
Uganda Cranes: Charles Lukwago (GK), Enock Walusimbi, Denis Iguma(c), Aziz Kayondo, Isaac Muleme, Timothy Awany, Taddeo Lwanga, Moses Waiswa, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Steven Mukwala, Fahad Bayo
Substitutions: Ismail Watenga (GK), Alionzi Nafian (GK), Innocent Wafula, Mustapha Kizza, Godfrey Wasswa, Livingstone Mulondo, Najib Fesali, Yunus Sentamu, Ibrahim Orit, Julius Poloto, Shafik Kagimu, Cromwell Rwothomio, Martin Kizza
Rwanda: Emery Mvuyekure (GK), Emmanuel Imanishimwe, Solomon Nirisalike, Rwatubyaye, Medi Kagere, Kevin Muhire, Rafael York, Jacques Tuyisenge, Yannick Mukunzi, Ange Mutsinzi, Djabel Manishimwe
Substitutions: Blaise Nishimwe, Muhadjir Hakizimana, Iradukunda Jean, Thierry Manzi, Eric Ndayishimiye (GK), Haruna Niyonzima, Oliver Niyonzima, Eric Rutanga