Uganda stand in Flames’ way
The setting is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Flames coach Ernest Mtawali takes his 11 troops to the field Monday afternoon with the sole mission of taking the Flames into the semifinal of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, but the Cranes of Uganda stand in the Flames’ path to the Promised Land.
The match in Addis Ababa will be the first quarterfinal tie at the tournament and both sides would surely have no room for error as they seek to take a step closer to the final where coveted $25,000 (K15 million) prize money would be up for grabs.
Cecafa group B winners, Uganda, are ranked 68th in the world while the Flames are ranked some 29 places below— on 97th.
Serbian coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic has, in the two years in charge, led the revolution of Uganda who are still in contention for 2018 World Cup qualification after knocking out Togo 4-0 on aggregate to make it to the group qualifiers.
The Cranes and Flames have met 26 times with the former having an edge with 13 wins and five draws.
The Flames have only beaten Uganda eight times.
Ironically, Mtawali’s first match as Flames coach was a 1-0 victory over Uganda during Independence Day celebrations on July 6, 2015 at Kamuzu Stadium.
Uganda are the most successful team in the history of the Cecafa Cup with 13 titles to their name.
They play a physical match, a style of play the Flames have failed to cope with at the Cecafa Cup, with Mtawali complaining that his players were failing to keep the ball in the group matches.
However, Mtawali said he expects an improved performance in today’s encounter after falling 2-0 against South Sudan in the Flames’ last group match last Friday where he made seven changes to the starting line-up.
“We have performed well so far. The players have shown signs of maturity. We expect a tough challenge from Uganda, but we will give out our best to make sure we come out of the match victorious,” he said.
Mtawali said he believed the team had enough quality to reach the final or perhaps go all the way to win its first trophy since 1988.
“We have quality players but they just have to believe in themselves and fight hard. Anything is possible,” he said.
Mtawali could recall Simplex Nthala in goals and Stanley Sanudi, John Lanjesi, Miracle Gabeya and Yamikani Fodya in defence.
Chimango Kayira, Gerald Phiri Jnr, John Banda and Dalitso Sailesi could be entrusted with the task of controlling the midfield to create chances for red-hot striker Chiukepo Msowoya who has scored two goals in three matches at the tournament.
Msowoya could play alongside Chawanangwa Kaonga upfront.
In the other quarterfinal ties, Tanzania face Ethiopia, South Sudan meet Sudan and Rwanda face current holders Kenya.
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