CRANES LIKELY LINE-UP: 1 Robert Odongkara (GK), 12 Denis Iguma, 2 Joseph Ochaya, 4 Murushid Jjuuko, 5 Isaac Isinde, 6 Tony Mawejje, 8 Khalid Aucho, 13 Moses Oloya, 10 William Luwagga Kizito, 17 Farouk Miya, 11 Geoffrey Massa (C).
Uganda Cranes, already off to a great start to their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign, face a nervy 9o minutes against Congo Brazzaville today without their first choice goalkeeper Denis Onyango.
Onyango has for the past five years provided a solid wall at the back, leaving the Cranes to worry only about getting goals. The last time he was in goal was two years back as Uganda fell 2-1 away to Madagascar in an AFCON qualification match.
He was injured as his South African side Sundowns won the African Champions League last month. Likely replacement is Ethiopian based Robert Odongkara, who was in goal in Uganda’s friendly against Zambia that Cranes lost 1-0 on Tuesday.
Other than Onyango, Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic is expected to maintain the squad that stunned Ghana by holding them 0-0 away in their opening match last month.
The other change outside the goalkeeping is expected to be the re-introduction of Geoffrey Massa upfront, as Micho looks for goals that will keep Congo Brazzaville focussed on defending and not attacking.
Massa also has a good history against Congo Brazzaville. Massa famously ‘tore apart’ the net when Cranes rode to a 4-0 win against Congo Brazzaville in a AFCON 2013 Qualification match.
Micho is talking up his team’s chances in a tough group.
“Some Africans compare the Uganda national team to a motorbike competing in a Formula One race. I disagree as we can match any side,” he said.
Micho has just led the Cranes to qualification to their first African Cup of Nations finals since 1978. The team’s chances to improve on this performance at a competition they have never qualified for, the World Cup, initially seemed to have been dented when they were grouped with Ghana and Egypt.
Uganda defied the predictions by holding Ghana 0-0 away in the opening match. Uganda could now go top of the group if they win versus Congo Brazzaville on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Ghana coach and former Chelsea manager Avram Grant could most certainly be sacked if he does not get a result this weekend. He however seems unperturbed by a poor start in Group E .
“We have five matches to go and there is no need for panic,” he told reporters. “After losing our opening game at the 2015 Cup of Nations, we went on to reach the final.”
Grant welcomes back fit-again Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, but injuries sideline fellow midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah and veteran striker Asamoah Gyan.
Egypt pulled off a 2-1 comeback win in Congo Brazzaville and will be fired up to avenge a humiliating 6-1 away thrashing by the Black Stars in a 2014 World Cup play-off.
“I know what Ghana did to us, but that is history,” said Argentina-born Egypt coach Hector Cuper. “We fear no team and our target is qualification for Russia.”
Standings P W D L F A Pts
Egypt 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
Ghana 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Uganda 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Congo 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
Uganda v Congo Brazzaville 4pm
Egypt v Ghana 7pm