Tuesday, March 29
3rd Place: Tajikistan vs Kyrgyzstan, 1:30pm
Final: Uzbekistan Vs Uganda, 5pm
Uganda Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic believes that Uzbekistan will give his players a big test as the two sides meet in Navruz Cup final Navbahor Stadium in Namangan.
Uganda reached this stage after needing penalties to eliminate Tajikistan while Uzbekistan overcame Kyrgyzstan 3-1.
Micho heaped praise on Uzbekistan players and coach and is confident that the match will be a good test for Uganda who is using the tournament to fine tune for the qualifiers of 2023 AFCON and CHAN.
Uzbekistan is ranked 85, a place below Uganda (84) in latest FIFA rankings released last month.
They are captained by Eldor Shomurodov who plies his trade in Italian Serie A with giants AS Roma.
Uzbekistan is coached by Slovenia tactician Srečko Katanec. He is regarded as the greatest player in Slovenia and coached Slovenia to 2002 World Cup and 2000 UEFA championship.
Nicknamed the White Wolves, Uzbekistan has played at seven straight Asian Cups, an equivalent of Africa Cup of Nations, including in 2011 when they were eliminated by Australia at the semis.
“Going into the game, we have the highest respect to the highly rated team of Uzbekistan whose marketing value is over 50 million Euros because they have players from Roma, big clubs in middle east and gulf area, and looking at that aspect, is real a huge test of character for our players,” Micho said.
“As I told them, there is no big and better chance than playing in front of 40,000 packed stadium of people against a very good team coached by a top class coach.”
Micho added: “We are there technically to assist them, to lead them in the right direction and believing in them, believing in our work and support and spirit of Ugandans, but we have invested and we shall still invest very much hard work in looking for a good defence, creative build up and sharp attack is something we are looking for in the game.”
Micho hinted on giving all players a chance to play.
He confirmed that Charles Lukwago is out, so Benjamin Ochan and Alionzi Nafian are the two available goalkeepers.
Khalid Aucho is out of the game “because we don’t want to risk.”
“For each position we are having two players competing, the mood in that camp I don’t need to talk about it, you have seen it your self, the spirit we have build for seven days we have been together is something that is our investment not only for Tuesday’s final where we have test of character and measurement of value and a real check up of where we are at present, but it’s an investment to go beyond in June when we start Africa cup of Nations qualifiers 2023.
“We are having players that will make the team that will turn the dreams of Ugandans into reality.”
Emmanuel Okwi headed in Uganda’s opener against Tajikistan in the semifinal but a clumsy display from goalkeeper Lukwago allowed the Asian minnows to level matters.
The game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes before Lukwago redeemed himself in shootouts where he saved two penalties to send Uganda Cranes to the Navruz Cup final.