2023 AFCON Qualifiers
Saturday, June 4: Algeria v Uganda Cranes
Wednesday, June 8: Uganda Cranes v Niger
Uganda Cranes have traditionally been limited in the offensive positions and with the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers beginning this weekend, coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic has been talking up a can-do mentality in his team.
In the last qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, The Cranes only scored three times in six games. The same return was realized in the Afcon 2021 qualifiers. And this time round, in a group featuring favourites Algeria, neighbours Tanzania and a decent Niger squad, Uganda must improve fast.
In Micho’s squad is Muhammad Shaban, the Uganda Premier League (UPL) second top-scorer, with 15 goals. Despite appearing at the 2017 Afcon in Gabon, Shaban has not made a serious mark in Cranes colours. This is his chance.
Fahad Bayo got his Cranes break under former coach Johnathan McKinstry. And in the last qualifiers, he scored all Cranes goals. Yet, since Bayo joined Israeli side Bnei Sakhnin in January this year, he has only scored twice in 18 games, not the best of return. But maybe the return of experienced Emmanuel Okwi is what Micho will count on.
For the bigger part of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, he was absent. But he has inspired Rwanda’s Kiyovu FC to second on the log, just two points behind APR FC with two games left. His six goals and a range of assists, have made Okwi a darling among the sports media in Rwanda.
In March, Micho told The Observer that finding forwards for The Cranes was such a hard task. Yet, he landed on Ibra Sekajja, a 29-year-old playing in England’s sixth tier at Dulwich Hamlet.
Sekajja scored six goals last season, but international football is a different ball game. Milton Karisa also faces a big test despite his 10 league goals for Vipers SC in the just-ended season.
Since his goal against Congo-Brazzaville in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Karisa remains an unknown quantity internationally. For Farouk Miya, who has scored 22 goals in 69 caps for The Cranes, he has been there and done it. But the last two seasons of little league activity raise questions about his form.