One of the major events that precedes every major tournament is the naming the final teams.
The debate rages as no coach can blend the ‘perfect’ juice. Coaches are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. It would be a waste of space if this piece went into the list of players dropped before big tournaments.
Uganda Cranes’ coach Micho Sredojevic stepped into the slaughter chamber last Wednesday when he named his final 23 for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Micho has anaesthetically hurt players’ feelings and expectations over a lengthy month-long period that started with over 40 players.
For most of those players, it must often feel like spending a lifetime on death row but inevitably Micho could only trust his instincts. The final three exclusions were goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan, midfielder Muzamir Mutyaba and striker Edrisa Lubega.
Dennis Onyango is Uganda’s undisputed number one. Micho picked Robert Odongkara and Salim Jamal to join him. That meant that KCCA’s Ochan is now in ‘standby mode’ as Micho would prefer to refer to players he cuts.
Somehow, Ochan, who had been part of the national team set-up since 2008, only Onyango had been there longer, remains on the periphery.
How many left-backs?
Cranes will have three players who have built their careers playing on the left side of the defence in Joseph Ochaya, Shafik Batambuze and Godfrey Walusimbi.
Ochaya (KCCA) is likely to start ahead of Batambuze. But, Walusimbi, senior to both can no longer be debated as a left-back.
His Kenyan club side Gor Mahia often use him on the wing and central midfield, something Micho has copied and employed him there too.
The ‘axing’ of Muzamir Mutyaba has caused the biggest debate as the central midfield is packed with grafters. This is true to Micho’s instincts.
Like many coaches, the Serbian is ‘safety first’ and you cannot discredit as he has led Cranes back to the Nations Cup after 39 years.
By choosing to send Mutyaba home from Tunisia where the team had a camp, Micho’s creative engines will be William Kizito Luwagga and Moses Oloya.
Without natural wingers, many will feel Mutyaba deserves a chance to thread that pass through the middle.
In Wednesday’s 2-0 buildup game loss to Tunisia, started with three strikers in captain Geoffrey Massa, Lubega and Yunus Ssenatmu.
The latter has undergone a major renaissance to get here. For all his flaws, Massa is a must and everyone else is a partner.
Luckily for Micho, the rest are different from Massa with only youngster Muhammed Shaban the closest you can compare in terms of graft.
Geoffrey Sserunkuma is sleek while Farouk Miya is able to slot in as a second striker or among the attacking midfielders.
It will take a miracle for Micho to coach Uganda after Gabon. He is certainly looking elsewhere regardless of Cranes’ performances.
After Gabon, Massa, midfielder Tony Mawejje, and one or two others are unlikely to continue with the qualifiers for the 2019 Nations Cup starting in March.
Fufa president Moses Magogo promised Ugandans a Nations Cup appearance in Cameroon come 2019 in what has been taunted as ‘Project 2019.’
Many of these players will become central to the national team after Gabon once it completes its ecdysis.
By ISMAIL DHAKABA KIGONGO,