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Plenty to ponder for McKinstry as he prepares to announce CHAN squad

By Shafic Kiyaga
Midfielder Saidi Kyeyune in training with the Cranes | URA FC photo

Uganda Cranes coach Johnathan McKinstry has a whole of factors to consider as he prepares to name his squad for the African Nations Championships on Friday.

The Cranes CHAN team is expected to kick-start preparations for the tournament slated for January-February 2021 next week, starting with a camp in Uganda before they fly out for a pre-CHAN friendly tournament.

McKinstry described the tournament’s postponement from April 2020 to January 2021 as ‘a big motivator’ for the players including those who hadn’t made the initial squad summoned in March.

Obviously, with the league resuming, a couple of players should have played their way back into the coach’s plans while others have not done their best to retain their places.

Football256 understands that a 28-man squad will be named to get preparations underway, though that will not include KCCA players who will be left out as they will still have CAF Confederations Cup engagements with their club.

Who retains their place on the Cranes CHAN squad?

KCCA FC goalkeeper Charles Lukwago looks set to not only make the squad, but also go on and start in goal for the Cranes at the tournament after establishing himself as the number one for the locally based team, and has continued to be a regular with the senior Cranes squad.

Lukwago’s deputies will most likely include Kyetume FC’s Joel Mutakubwa and URA FC shot stopper Alionzi Nafian.

In defence, Vipers SC captain Halid Lwaliwa is a certainty as long as he remains fit and is cleared of COVID-19.

Patrick Mbowa and Geoffrey Wasswa are also other candidates together with KCCA young defender Samuel Kato who has been a constant feature in recent summons.

At right back, it is hard to think of any contenders outside Paul Willa and URA’s Ashraf Mandela while Disan Galiwango who was recently handed his Cranes debut should be one of the first names on the list.

In midfield, URA FC duo Shafiq Kagimu, Saidi Kyeyune and Wakiso Giants’ Hassan Ssenyonjo have been a constant, together with AbdulKarim Watambala who is adored by the Irish coach.

KCCA’s Herbert Achai has also had a strong start to the season and can be a solid option with versatility. Bright Anukani should be returning after recovering from COVID-19.

Brian Aheebwa who has further proved his scoring prowess with six goals including four against Onduparaka has certainly done enough to cement his place on the team.

Steven Mukwala and Samson Kigozi should also be included together with Wakiso Giants’ Vianney Ssekajugo, and Vipers’ Ibrahim Orit who has emerged as a dependable option for McKinstry.

Who could be the new additions?

Police FC’s Tom Ikara has kept three clean sheets in four games and has been strong in goal for the Cops pulling off brilliant and commanding performaces.

Hassan Muhamood and Eric Ssenjobe have also been integral in a largely impenetrable Police backline. The pair specifically have also been involved as much in the club’s attacking play.

KCCA’s Kezironi Kizito has also been impressive for the start of the season and while Juma Balinya has not been involved as much, his experience means he remains with a chance.

Tony Mawejje and Murushid Juuko are the other players who combine experience with a wealth of skills that can be an asset in a tournament like CHAN.

The duo was included in the Cranes squad for the game against South Sudan, with McKinstry revealing they were being assessed for this specific assignment.

Ben Ocen has also been impressive for the start of the season scoring six goals so far. He was overlooked for the previous squad, but should be a strong consideration this time around.

Who is a long shot for the CHAN squad?

KCCA’s Julius Poloto is ruled out due to injury, as is Saidi Keni who is also still struggling with fitness.

Joachim Ojera has not been particularly impressive for the games he has played so far but he will hope he is included to show he can still contribute.

Denis Iguma has not featured for the Cranes and despite being included for the South Sudan preparations; his chances continue to be slim.

David Bagoole continues to be far from McKinstry’s thoughts and is well down the pecking order.

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