CHIEF among the ingredients of championship winning sides in modern football, aside from proving solid, has often been their ability to build play from the back, more so with some level of consistency.

Today, Nakivubo Stadium
Zanzibar v Rwanda 1.30pm
Tanzania v Uganda 4pm
Sunday: Semi-finals

CHIEF among the ingredients of championship winning sides in modern football, aside from proving solid, has often been their ability to build play from the back, more so with some level of consistency.
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Cranes’ back-four has done extremely well in preserving a clean sheet and under normal circumstances, should generate unprecedented confidence within the team’s ranks and fans marching into today’s game against Tanzania. Yet that is not just the case.

In fact, if Cranes’ previous three fixtures, since the loss of Joseph Owino to injury, have proved anything, it’s that the restructured defensive pair of Andy Mwesigwa and Edward Ssali just does not perfectly co-exist.

The signs were evident for the large spell when Ssali replaced Owino during the Rwanda game, they weren’t as apparent against a Zanzibar side that decided to be cautious and play with numbers behind the ball, but were obvious and particularly worrying against a Somalia team that wasn’t supposed to pose as much threat.

There were indications that the home side will certainly be punished against better organised outfits like Tanzania at Nakivubo Stadium and into the semi-final stages.

“Concentration was their problem but we will try to improve that,” Cranes boss Bobby Williamson argued when asked of the pair’s frailties in the side’s centre-half position.

But it is more than that. Mwesigwa and Ssali duplicate the other’s man-marking abilities and the reason both have collided in more than one situation is that none is a sweeper with well-founded game reading abilities.

Cranes captain Mwesigwa needs a fantastic game reader, timely tackler, and quality distributor alongside him and not a partner in the shape of Ssali, whose decisions and timing are suspect.

Crisis strategy
The alternative would be starting with Derrick Walulya at right-back and re-locating Simeon Masaba to the centre as Mwesigwa’s partner to combat Tanzanian forwards Danny Mrwanda and Jerson Tegete, who thrive on movement into the box.

Tanzania exhibited finesse and astute movement against Rwanda, on and off the ball, and Cranes ought to fall back often when without possession.

They are bound to territorially dominate the game, meaning Williamson will call upon every bit of muscle from his players to strike a counter-balance particularly in midfield, where Steven Bengo and Vincent Kayizzi are usually ineffective without the ball.

For Cranes to earn a result, the team will definitely have to play out of their skins. And if they can, stop the visitors scoring.

Williamson is likely to stick with a 4-4-2 formation that Cranes are comfortable with. Williamson will have to decide whether or not to risk fielding Tonny Mawejje and Owen Kasule, who are just a card away from suspension.

Kavuma v Ngassa
Cranes’ coaching committee has stuck with Habib Kavuma ahead of Ismael Kazibwe at left-back but that is the other defensive area Cranes has not been really tested. Kavuma has probably been decent for Bunamwaya but unfortunately not for the Cranes, even against opposition that does not rely on wing play.

Aside from being average offensively, his one-on-one abilities are still suspect. He will have to put up his best tournament performance to contain Tanzanian winger Mrisho Ngassa.

Qualification
Cranes’ 4-0 win over Somalia virtually sealed Uganda’s progress to the semi-finals and today’s ambitions should be securing that top place in Group A.

With eight-goals, the unexpected must happen to deny Cranes a place into the next round. Zanzibar, the only side with a possible chance of breaking into the top two, will have to humiliate Rwanda by not less than six goals and hope that Tanzania hits Uganda by a minimum of three goals to guarantee a semi- final place.

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