Four solid years down the road, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic is still synonymous with the pragmatic setup. No prizes for guessing whether this trend continues in Uganda’s next qualifier match against Mali.
The Uganda Cranes’ barren result against East African counterparts Kenya on Thursday September 2rd at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi was a clear exhibit of the amount of work and time that should as a requirement be invested in the team so as to hit the kind heights that are reminiscent of the 2019 Afcon tournament.
In all fairness, Uganda’s adventure in that particular edition of the coveted tournament under Sebastian Desbre was the closest to perfection. The team played with a lot of artistry, irreverence and immense skill-so much so that it got many waxing lyrical about the bright future that seemed quite imminent.
The same conversation was intensified by Morley Bwekwaso’s Hippos side and their mouthwatering performance at the U20 Afcon competition that saw them convincingly pounce on a North African giant (Tunisia) en route to the finals.
The outlook has since changed with the return of the serbian tactician to the job he so familiarly identifies with, but with a philosophy that is an inconvenience to the majority of Ugandans in the football fraternity.
This pragmatic approach to the game manifested itself in his matchday selection for the game against the Harambee stars. He had only three forward thinking players on the pitch who included Milton Karrisa, Moses Waiswa and team captain Emmanuel Okwi.
Micho operated with eight defensively oriented players as exhibited by a midfield duo of Khalid Aucho and Bobosi Byaruhanga who sat before a back-four of Murushid Jjuuko, Halid Lwaliwa, Dennis Iguma and Isaac Muleme. Joseph Ochaya played further forward.
For many, the writing was on the wall and a draw seemed the ideal result the gaffer was on a quest for. You would know this because Uganda’s only realistic chance to score was a first half penalty claim courtesy of a foul on Milton Karissa which was overlooked by the officials.
The Serb was quick to express his dissatisfaction with his “three-man-attack” while addressing the media in the aftermath of the match, highlighting the need for them to be more assertive in the fixture against Mali.
When asked about the threat posed by the opponent, Micho was quick to single out Micheal Olunga, a talisman with Qatar side Al-Duhail and was no stranger to admitting the fact that thinking about his presence helped shape their preparations.
“Our plan was to cut off supply to him as the point of edge and we successfully managed to achieve that. I was however waiting for our players to capitalize on the spaces behind their fullbacks but this didn’t happen.” He made mention.
About the decision concerning the penalty, he had this to say: “I am used to this because the same thing happened when I was here with Zambia. I will not go in the direction to speak about the referee but rather talk about football because the boys gave 100%.”
According to him, the Kenyans had an edge in terms of fitness since their local league had recently played to completion and therefore making it hard to compare the players physically for a match that demanded so much in terms of fitness.
Micho also excitedly spoke about the future of the team using Vipers SC anchorman Bobosi Byaruhanga as an example to highlight that the transition was starting with young talent and him playing 90 minutes was testament to that.
“We are a team in transition after star players retiring, Onyango left and other senior players just like Messi left Barcelona. If you see Bobosi playing an entire game, you know that the future is indeed bright.” He added.
He however indicated that they as a team will need a formula on how to operate, finding further replacements for the retired legends and borrowing a leaf from the Hippos side for this promised transition to be successful.
He mentions the fact that the experienced players are doing a tremendous job in helping these juniors assimilate to the national team as preparations for their second World Cup Qualifiers game against Mali to be hosted at the St. Mary’s stadium in Kitende are underway.
The flamboyant gesture is that the gaffer takes all the blame for the result and promises more aggression from the team going forward as the technical team works to iron out the imperfections as exposed earlier.
Your guess could be the same as mine that Ugandans are reading too much in the Micho return. His adventures across Africa to places like Orlando Pirates, Zamalek and so forth might not have had an effort towards his football philosophy and again, this could be another long disastrous walk.