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Pressure mounts on Micho as AFCON hopes fade


Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Cranes Head Coach Milutin Sredojević Micho is facing mounting pressure and criticism from dedicated Ugandan football fans following the team’s disappointing loss to Algeria on Sunday night, which dealt a severe blow to their chances of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The Uganda Cranes now find themselves on the verge of missing out on a consecutive appearance at the prestigious AFCON tournament. Currently occupying the third position in the standings with four points, they face stiff competition from Tanzania, who hold the second qualifying position with seven points. Micho, a Serbian coach who previously led Uganda Cranes to the 2017 AFCON after a nearly four-decade absence from the continental championship, was reappointed in 2021 with the aim of addressing the team’s previous shortcomings.

The decision to bring him back was made by the Federation of Ugandan Football Association-FUFA after parting ways with former Cranes Chief, Jonathan McKinstry. Micho’s return was seen as an opportunity to rectify the team’s performance following their failure to qualify for the 2021 African Cup of Nations, ending their streak of consecutive qualifications for the 2017 tournament in Gabon and the 2019 event in Egypt.

Fans had high hopes that the team’s back-to-back qualifications marked the beginning of a positive trajectory for the Cranes, with the expectation that qualifying for AFCON would become a regular achievement. However, their inability to secure a spot in the 2021 edition despite a strong start in the qualifiers raised concerns and strained the relationship between the Ugandan FA and Jonathan McKinstry, ultimately leading to Micho’s appointment on a three-year contract.

Unfortunately, Micho’s return has yet to yield the desired results. The Uganda Cranes have struggled to make a significant impact in the ongoing AFCON qualification tournament, managing only one win in four games and scoring a mere three goals. As a result, their qualification for the continental showpiece hangs in the balance. While Moses Magogo, the President of the Ugandan FA, has consistently defended Micho and the Cranes, citing a transitional phase due to the retirement of experienced players, the Serbian coach has faced criticism from fans.

Many accuse him of adopting a defensive-oriented style of play that fails to resonate with their preferences. Following each defeat, social media platforms become inundated with disgruntled Uganda Cranes fans voicing their discontent and calling for Sredojević’s removal using the hashtag #michoout. However, in a previous interaction with journalists, Moses Magogo emphasized the importance of making decisions based on objective evaluation rather than emotions.

He stated that the federation would assess Milutin Sredojević Micho’s performance at the conclusion of the 2023 African Cup of Nations qualification campaign before making a final decision. While some solely attribute the team’s struggles to the coach’s tactics, former Uganda Cranes player and assistant captain Hassan Wasswa Mawanda holds a different perspective.

According to him, many players are not giving their best to the team, unlike those who were part of the successful 2016 qualification campaign. Mawanda recalled their active days when they would exert tremendous effort to secure victories against lower-ranked teams in their group, emphasizing the importance of gaining an advantage. He referred to the recent draw against Niger at St. Mary’s Stadium in Kitende during the ongoing campaign to support his argument.

Regarding Micho’s suitability for the job, Mawanda stated that while many Ugandan football fans criticize Micho for the team’s poor performance, it is crucial to recognize that the players also need time to gain valuable experience.

Andy Mwesigwa, a former captain of the Uganda Cranes, believes that the current campaign offers no chance for the Cranes to qualify. Mwesigwa noted that the defeat against Algeria all but guarantees their disqualification, as he does not believe the Cranes can secure the necessary win against Niger with the required goal margin.

Mwesigwa also criticized the current technical bench, under the guidance of Coach Milutin Micho, for their failure to utilize young players in order to establish a strong and consistent squad.

According to Mwesigwa, the focus now should be on building a squad that can secure future qualifications with ease. He emphasized that the technical bench should prioritize empowering the young players to assume senior positions in the national team while eliminating the older players who, in his opinion, have nothing more to contribute.