Sunday, November 14
*Mali 1-0 Uganda
Uganda Cranes ended their World Cup campaign on a low note after a 1-0 loss to Mali in a game played at the Adrar Stadium, Agadir, Morocco.
It was a dead rubber affair after Mali had already secured the only available slot to the playoff round.
Kalifa Coulibaly benefited from calamitous goalkeeping from Ismail Watenga to score the only goal of the match in the 19th minute.
The Chippa United goalkeeper was indecisive when he came off his line when Coulibaly headed home from a nicely taken freekick.
Allan Okello thought he had equalised matters for the Cranes when he slotted in after the goalkeeper had spilled a strong freekick from Bobosi Byaruhanga, but he was rightly called offside by the linesman.
Byruhanga also had his freekick just off the target, Ibrahim Orit headed wide and earlier saw his effort sail off the target while Bevis Mugabi’s header was slightly deflected for corner.
Mali were the dominant side and were good value for the result but Watenga made two good saves in the second half to keep the score respectable.
He redeemed himself with a reflex save to keep out Coulibaly’s header and he was later equal to Mounkoro effort.
Micho named an attack-minded lineup on paper, with Orit and Martin Kizza playing at the opposite flanks, but the team failed to find any rhythm on an evening they played with nothing to lose.
Close But Still Too Far for Uganda
Uganda ends the World Cup Qualification campaign second in Group E with nine points, seven points adrift of Mali.
After the World Cup second round draw were held on 21 January 2020 in Cairo, it was a fair group for Uganda Cranes.
Fair is a understatement actually after Uganda managed to avoid any Maghreb team like Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco or any of the West African Giants in form of Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana or Senegal.
Picking Mali, who has never been at the World Cup, and two neighbours in Rwanda and Kenya, was just a group that Uganda perfectly dreamed of.
But the fact that Uganda failed to beat Kenya in both legs, shows that this Micho’s team did not deserve to reach the next round.
Micho’s detractors will blame the his conservative approach but its this approach that helped Uganda broke the 39-year AFCON jinx back in 2017.
His second term was going to be that difficult given the state he found the team in.
The Cranes had just failed to make it to the 2021 AFCON finals while the team of locally based players had failed to reach the knockout of the CHAN to ignite the ‘Shitty football’ ugly remarks.
The big context of all this is that Micho inherited a new team. The big boys including captain Denis Onyango have retired, and with the likes of Farouk Miya, Kizito Luwagga etc not being considered, it left the Serbian in a trial and error situation.
The Israel-based duo and Bevis Mugabi were not available for the first two games due to Covid19 travel restrictions while the local based players lacked match fitness due to league cancellation.
Whether Micho was the right man for the job, will be a debate for the next day but it was going to be a tough job for any man that would have been in charge.
Back to the drawing board for Uganda, but this looked like a realistic chance for Uganda to knock on the World Cup doors.
Mali 🇲🇱 – Ismael Diawara, Falaye Sacko, Senou Coulibaly, Moussa Sissako, Charles Traore, Diadie Samassekou, Rominigue Kouame, Moussa Doumbia, Lassine Sinayoko, Kalifa Coulibaly, El Bilal Toure
Uganda 🇺🇬 – Ismail Watenga, Denis Iguma, Bevis Mugabi, Halid Lwaliwa, Isaac Muleme, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Khalid Aucho, Allan Okello, Ibrahim Orit, Martin Kizza, Fahad Bayo
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