Friday, July 2
*Saudi Arabia Vs Uganda, 7pm
Uganda U23 team, the Kobs, will face off with Saudi Arabia U23 side in a friendly on Friday at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.
This is the first of the two friendlies lined up to fine tune the two sides for respective tournaments.
The two sides will play their second friendly on July 5.
Uganda will use the match to prepare for the upcoming CECAFA U23 Championship while Saudi Arabia will gauge themselves ahead of the Olympics tournament as they are one of the four sides to represent the Asian Continent in Tokyo.
The Kobs, under coach Morley Byekwaso, flew out of the country on June 29 for the training camp in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This will be the third meeting in recent memory between the two sides – The senior sides played out a goalless draw in November 2010. Saudi Arabia won the second game 3-1 in February 2001.
- Uganda travelled without U20 captain Gavin Kizito after the player reportedly tested positive for Covid19
- All players have returned negative tests on arrival in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, per reports.
- Coach Byekwaso has no reported injuries from the squad of 25 after Thursday’s session
- Saudi Arabia will be without captain and Hilal star Salman Al-Faraj after he missed last training due to mild fatigue.
- Abdulelah Al-Omari started his rehabilitation program accompanied by the medical staff.
Byekwaso Has Eyes On Cecafa Success
Coach Byekwaso will be going for the cecafa U23 championship after recording enormous success with the U20 side at the AFCON U20 Championship in Mauritania
Against all odds, Byekwaso’s Uganda Hippos rode all the way to the final where they lost to a better side – Ghana, 2-0 – in the final.
He has beefed up the squad with a couple of big names that lit the 2020/21 Uganda Premier League side including three over-age players in Saidi Kyeyune, Steven Mukwala and Charles Lukwago.
He is expected to use the same blueprint that grinded out results in Mauritania but the two friendlies against Saudi Arabia will give him more time to test out a few things here and there.
The side held its only full training session on Thursday, and Byekwaso said: “We thank God for a good session today, the only worry is the heat, its so hot here. Its 27 degrees back in Uganda but it is 45 here. But the boys are good and geared up for a good show on Friday.”
The coach has named Express skipper Enock Walusimbi as the the team captain. “Walusimbi deserves that, he has led Express to success, he deserves to be the captain because he is a leader and very disciplined.”
Uganda will hope to leave Saudi Arabia unscathed as they prepare for Cecafa that kick off on July 17 in Bahir Dar in Ethiopia.
Saudi Arabia on the rise
Saudi Arabia are ranked 65 per the FIFA rankings released in May 7 2021, that is their senior team which many Ugandan relates to the 8-0 drubbing against Germany in 2002 World Cup.
They have made strides with their Youth teams. The U20 team is in the semis of the Arab Youth Cup where they will face Egypt on July 3.
The U23 which faces Uganda has already earned a ticket to the Olympics, their first since 1996 and third overall.
To achieve that fate, they finished second at the 2020 Asia Championship where they lost to South Korea in final, 1-0 in extra time.
They had topped Group B that had Syria, Qatar and Japan. They knocked out Uzbekistan and Thailand to reach the final in the championship played last year.
Since then, they have a couple of friendlies including a 1-1 draw with Mexico when they had a training camp in Marbella, Spain.
They beat South Africa U23 3-2 and lost 2-0 to Argentina on June 11, after they had a man sent off.
The match against Uganda may not give coach Saad Al-Shehri a clear picture of what he will meet at Olympics where he is grouped in a tough group D alongside Brazil, Germany and Ivory Coast, but will provide him with a real-game assessment of his players.
That said, the athleticism and power of Uganda players match that of Ivory coast to some extent.
How To Watch – No Ugandan or Saudi Arabian TV will broadcast this match, but a Livestream link (if any) will be shared on our social media pages prior to kickoff.
How Will Uganda Lineup?
Morley Byekwaso is expected to go for a 3-5-2 formation.
Goalkeeper Charles Lukwago is expected to get the nod ahead of Eric Kibowa and Hassan Matovu in between the posts.
Enock Walusimbi, Peter Magambo and Musa Ramathan in the three-man defence.
Bobosi Byaruhanga will anchor the middle, Saidi Kyeyune and Karim Watambala in more advanced positions while Steven Sserwadda and Aziz Kayondo will be used as wing backs in a compact midfield.
Steven Mukwala will compliment AFCON U20 top scorer Derrick Kakooza up front.
Uganda Probable Lineup – Charles Lukwago; Enock Walusimbi, Musa Ramathan, Peter Magambo; Isma Mugulusi, Aziz Kayondo, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Karim Watambala, Saidi Kyeyune; Steven Mukwala, Derrick Kakooza.
Saudi Arabia probable – Zaid al-barwadi, Saud Abdulhamid, Abdulelah Al-Amri, Abdullah Hassoun, Hamad Yami, Turki Al-Ammar, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Nasser Al-Omran, Mukhtar Ali, Abdullah Al-Hamdan, Abdulrahman Al-Yami.