The jury will be out when Cranes coach Sebastian Desabre leads his side into today’s Afcon qualifier against Tanzania’s Taifa Stars. The Frenchman has struggled to impress since replacing Moses Basena in the Cranes hot seat. Over 10 months after taking charge as he is yet to win a competitive encounter.
Having seen their heroes break a generation-old non-qualification hoodoo by making it to the CAN Gabon 2017 finals, Cranes fans expect nothing less than a place at Cameroon 2019. The team’s failure to muster a single victory at last January’s African Nations Championship in Morocco was written off as Desabre’s initiation. But Ugandans are accustomed to home victories in qualifiers.
Taifa Stars are familiar foes as the Cranes have been trading blows with their regional rivals in Cecafa competitions for decades. Although Uganda has a superior head to head over their southern neighbours, they have a more vibrant domestic league in which derbies involving giants Simba, Yanga and Azam often attract a capacity crowd at the 60,000 seat National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Three Tanzania based Cranes stars could face off with club mates. Right back Nicolas Wadada is a recent acquisition at moneybags Azam whereas central defender Murushid Jjuuko and striker Emmanuel Okwi are mainstays at record Cecafa club champions Simba. KCCA midfielder Ibrahim Saddam Juma and Vipers counterpart Taddeo Lwanga, who were both monumental in Marrakech, Morocco last January could be the only Uganda based players to make the starting line up, as it’s difficult to see keeper Charles Lukwago, defender Mustapha Mujjuzi, or striker Patrick Kaddu dislodging any of the established foreign based stars.
The Cranes currently lead Group L of the Cameroon 2019 qualifiers, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Cape Verde in Praia on match day one. Mbwana Samatta, Simon Msuva and Hamid Mao carry a genuine threat for the visitors but given Cranes’ preponderance to win home rubbers, I am backing them.
Uganda 2 Tanzania 0