It was a mixed performance for Uganda Cranes players as they squeezed out a hard fought draw against Mali in Group E of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at St Mary’s Stadium in Kitende on Monday.
Few players were admirable on the day as many struggled to establish their authority against Mali’s physically advanced players.
After the goalless draw away to Kenya four days earlier, coach Micho made three changes to his starting XI – Ismail Watenga started ahead of Charles Lukwago in goal, while Enock Walusimbi and Derrick Nsibambi both were handed places in the starting lineup.
Here is how the Uganda Cranes players ranked against Mali:
Ismail Watenga (6.5/10) – Barely tested on the day, tried to start plays from the back but his defence looked suspect. A clean sheet is all that matters though he wasn’t called much into action. His starting position will be under scrutiny after Charles Lukwago’s clean-sheet away to Kenya and he will be tasked to bring his A-game day in and day out.
Denis Iguma (5/10) – Looked to be the team’s weakest link due to his deteriorating pace but managed to recover from his nervey and shaky start to remain in character. Never crossed the halfway line when he need be hence offering nothing going forward but ably settled in when he sat in the centre back after Juuko’s red. A darling to Micho but hard to see him retain a place in the team in future games.
Isaac Muleme (6/10) – Very solid and vibrant throughout. Was made to work especially in the first half and weathered through the storm in a game where he was troubled by Adama Traore. Stood the test of time and you could see his urge going forward though failed to create any meaningful opportunity. Faces stiff competition with Mustafa Kizza for the left back position but his unwavering firmness when attacked looked to have cemented his starting berth.
Enock Walusimbi (5.5/10) – Resolute but had trouble to cope up with the physicality of Mali’s forwards who stretched him for the best part of the game. Struggled to use the ball at times but was admirable in other aspects of the game. Despite his inexperience, the versatile young defender, with a bright future ahead, showed glimpses of quality in terms of interventions and aerial prowess. He is a diamond in the rough and has continued to make huge strides after a strong season with Champions Express.
Murushid Juuko (4.5/10) – He was the beating heart of the defence and thwarted away all forms of pressure from the strong Ibrahima Kone. He taunted him all day and had muddled through well after that booking in the 36th minute. The striker later got the better of him when he was sent off in an off the ball incident (elbow). Like Micho later stated in a post match interview, his behavour was totally unnecessary, and it was that indiscipline that almost costed a team the whole game in what was already a difficult day.
Khalid Aucho (5/10) – Lost his midfield to a more solid Mohamed Camara and struggled to protect his defence in needy times. Covered most ground but was let down by his poor passing everytime he was asked to use the ball. Redeemed himself with some interceptions and later got a breather when Camara was taken off. He knows that he could have done better as his experience and quality have never been been in doubt.
Bobosi Byaruhanga (4/10) – Failed to bring the ball out from the back and was never given plenty of opportunities to show his range with his trademark over-the-top passes. Had his freekick blocked by the wall and it was hard to find a good highlight in the minutes he played before he was taken off for Moses Waiswa in the 82nd. Not much to ask for a player who was getting his second senior start in the national team but he has found himself thrown into the deep waters at such a tender age, and has surprisingly come out alive.
Milton Karisa (3/10) – Was denied space to run into and had a quiet time throughout. Failed to drive the team to dangerous areas and was not productive from start to finish while playing at a familiar ground – Kitende is home for his club Vipers. Later taken off for Ibrahim Orit and its hard to tell why Micho had left him out there to dry, in a game where the team needed more players who can play behind the ball.
Emmanuel Okwi (4/10) – He was ineffective throughout for the supposed to be reliable captain. Wanted to offer something when playing behind Derrick Nsibambi but you could see him struggle in a game he was a major doubt after that injury in Kenya match earlier. Tried to drop deep to make things happen but all was in vain. The goal drought and the heavy armband may continue to be a burden for Okwi who will have to pull his socks as he is one of the only few remaining experienced players on the team.
Derrick Nsibambi (3/10) – A surprise starter ahead of Yunus Sentamu and never got touch of the ball due to limited service and he later found himself in the pockets of effective defensive stalwart Boubacar Kouyate. Was made to chase around the Mali defence before the introduction of Steven Desse Mukwala got him out of his misery.
Joseph Ochaya (3/10) – Was a pedestrian for the best part of the match and barely helped out Muleme as he never tracked back on the left side of the defence. Failed to impact the game going forward and was later offloaded for Mustafa Kizza. He will be required to perform much better in next games otherwise his future in the team lies in tatters.
Innocent Wafula (3/10) – Came on for Emmanuel Okwi after Murushid Juuko had been sent off. Deployed at right back as Iguma filled the centre back void. He came into thick of things and survived some late flurry of attacks as the team held on for a point.
Mustafa Kizza (4/10) – Thrown on to replace Joseph Ochaya. Almost scored a winner with a powerful freekick at the far end but denied by goalkeeper Ibrahim Bosso.
Steven Desse Mukwala (N/A) – Replaced Derrick Nsibambi for the last ten minutes. Looked to have brought on some energy when he tried to rush the Mali defence but never got hold of the ball.
Moses Waiswa (N/A) – A substitute for Bobosi Byaruhanga in the 82nd minute. Such a shame that he did not start. Came at a time when the team was struggling to get hold of the ball.
Ibrahim Orit (N/A) – He was brought on for Milton Karisa late in the game. Hard to remember whether he touched the ball. Not involved a great deal.