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World Cup qualifiers: Where are Cranes goals?

The last Uganda Cranes coach to lose his first competitive game at Namboole stadium was the Egyptian Muhammad Abbas, back in October 2004.

Then, The Cranes lost to a Benni McCarthy-inspired South Africa by one goal to nil during the 2006 Fifa World Cup qualifiers. Essentially, it has been a whopping 20 years since a newly hired Cranes coach lost his first competitive game at Namboole.

That should put some added pressure on Cranes current coach, the Belgian, Paul Put. Consider that in their first games at Namboole, the late Paul Hasule beat Ghana 1-0 and Mike Mutebi engineered the fall of DR Congo 1-0.

In addition, Laszlo Csaba won 3-0 over Lesotho, Bobby Williamson edged Benin 2-1, Milutin Sredojevic beat Liberia 1-0, Moses Basena downed a Mohammed Salah-led Egypt 1-0, Sebastien Desabre drew goalless with Tanzania, while Johnny McKinstry made sure that the last international game ever played at Namboole in November 2019, ended in a 2-0 victory over Malawi in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

However, one aspect that stood out about The Cranes then, was their defence. It was normally reliable, as it proved to be the team’s bedrock. But also with the likes of striker Geoffrey Massa, The Cranes had the tendency to always have the odd goal at home.

But who can Put reliably count on, to ensure that he, too, wins his first game at Namboole as Cranes coach, when they face Botswana on Friday, June 7?

During the training sessions over the last few days, Put has emphasized good ball retention during practice. But at the same time, he has been pushing his players to improve their pressing game, in order to win back possession soon after losing it.

Yet, Put is not oblivious of the fact that for all the pressing and ball retention to be purposeful, his side has to have an end to it all- goals. Following the apparent refusal of Plymouth striker Uche Ikpeazu Mubiru, to honour Put’s call-up for the double-header of qualifiers, which also has Algeria at Namboole on Monday, June 10, the Belgian tactician replaced him with Nelson Senkatuka.

The Soltilo Bright Stars forward scored 13 league goals in the recently concluded Uganda Premier League. And although Senkatuka has been in some good form, he is one striker that has not been trusted enough on the international scene.

Senkatuka has 17 caps, but only started once, and scored once. Yet, for Fahad Bayo, the MFK Vyskov striker in Czechia, has been the man scoring the goals for Uganda lately.

Bayo scored in Cranes last game at Namboole, in the 2-0 victory over Malawi. He has since followed that up with goals against Guinea last November. Before then, he scored four in eight previous qualification games for Uganda, including in the 1-2 defeat to Algeria last June.

Meanwhile, Rogers Mato, the Brera Strumica striker in North Macedonia ,has shown that he has a knack of scoring winners like he did against Tanzania and Somalia last year. Both were 1-0 wins. Put would surely give everything for that to be on Friday.

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