Hard Lessons for Under-17s

It was good as long as it lasted. While Zambia halted Uganda’s hopes of qualification for the 2015 African U-17 Championship, the Cubs have a lot of positives to take from their campaign, writes John Vianney Nsimbe.

Going into the third round of qualification, Uganda’s Under-17s had eliminated Seychelles and Rwanda, with commanding displays both at home and away. However, they trailed the Zambians 0-2 from the first leg. But, any hopes for a fairytale comeback were thwarted as early as the 20th minute when Zambian skipper Patison Daka found the back of the net.

The tie was good as over thereon. Daka added a second on 67 minutes before Alex Komakech pulled one back for the Cubs from a penalty on 70 minutes. By then, however, the tie had been settled and Uganda bowed out 1-4 on aggregate. History of Uganda’s underage teams suggests this may be the last time the youngsters have played as a group.

On several occasions, the teams have disintegrated, with only a handful of youngsters making it to the senior team. But there is every hope this campaign could be turning point. Fufa President Moses Magogo has pledged to keep track of these players to ensure that there is sustainable development. Magogo has also promised to establish an national Under-17 league by January 2015.

In fact, Matia Lule, the Cubs coach, said after the game that there is a lot of potential in this team that needs harnessing. Lule reasoned: “We need to extend these players to the Under-20 level, and then later to Under-23 for our game to grow.”

Although Lule appears to have the blue-print, the application of his team on Saturday left some fans disappointed too. Basics like ball-control were lacking amongst some of his players. In addition, the team lacked cohesion and the players’ off-the-ball movements was unimpressive. All this confirms the notion that team needs more playing time together.

That, in essence, will also help them build their character and not easily give up like was seen on Saturday. While the forwards failed to click, they lacked any substantive service from a hollow midfield that allowed the Zambians to dominate. Lule’s approach to the game was one of total disregard to the threat Zambia posed.

This was in light of the fact that he chose to use one defensive midfielder, Emmanuel Oringa, in a 4-1-3-2 formation in which Frank Tumwesigye, Hassan Ssenyonjo and Pius Obuya offered little defensive support.

Indeed, Chris Kaunda, the Zambia coach, highlighted how Ugandans were too open, which made it easy for his players to manoeuvre. Despite the criticism, Lule was all praise for his players’ efforts throughout.

Source : The Observer

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