Uganda’s national football team, The Cranes, will Sunday play against Taifa Stars of Tanzania in their last Africa Cup of Nations group qualifiers. Uganda is among the 14 countries which have already qualified for the tournament in Egypt from June 21 to July 19, 2019 featuring 24 nations.
SoftPower New’s Kungu Al-mahadi Adam takes through Uganda’s journey to this stage and what Sunday’s match mean for Cranes.
Uganda qualified for AFCON final tournament, for the first time since 1978 in 2017 (Gabon tourney), but prior to that, in 2016, FUFA President, Moses Magogo shocked the nation when he said he said that he was not bothered about the teams fate of the team in those qualifiers.
He said: “As FUFA we are not part of the excitement and ongoing qualification mathematics classes. Our medium term goal is for the Cameroon (then hosts before striping their rights to Egypt) finals in 2019 whose qualifiers begin in fifteen months.”
Magogo’s remarks attracted strong criticism from a number of football fans and analysts, describing them as “irresponsible” before shifting their eyes to the 2019 campaign awaiting to witness how what the top football administrator promised unveils.
On January 12 in Libreville, Gabon, during the draw for the qualification stage, Uganda was placed in Group L alongside fellow East Africans Tanzania, Southern Africa side Lesotho and Atlantic Ocean Islanders Cape Verde.
Going by the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) rankings then, Uganda was the best ranked out of the four in group L, thus commanding respect and a signal that they were a team to watch. Rankings placed Uganda 72nd in the World, Cape Verde 80th, Lesotho 141st and Tanzania 156th.
Group games begin
Cranes opened their campaign against Cape Verde on June 11, in the game played in Praia. Geoffrey Sserunkuma’s only goal gave Uganda an away 1-0 win against the hosts. Tanzania’s game against Lesotho ended in a one all draw that weekend.
On September 8, Taifa Stars held Cranes to a barren draw in Kampala during the second group game. Also, Cape Verde and Lesotho drew one all.
Uganda’s biggest win happened on October 13, when they humiliated visitors, Lesotho 3-0, thanks to Emmanuel Okwi’s brace and Farouk Miya’s goal. Cape Verde also thumped Tanzania 3-0 in Praia.
Two weeks later, Confident Cranes travelled to Maseru where forward, Miya Farouk scored twice to give Uganda a two nil win over Lesotho. Taifa Stars beat Cape Verde 2-0 that weekend.
KCCA FC’s Patrick Kaddu scored the only goal of the game for the Cranes on November 17 when they beat Cape Verde 1-0. Lesotho also surprisingly defeated Tanzania in Maseru.
Now, the last group games will be played on Sunday March 24, but from results of the five matches played so far, Uganda qualified already and sits top of the group with 13 points, followed by Tanzania and Lesotho who both have 5 points and last in the group is Cape Verde with just 4 points.
Tanzania will be hosting Uganda on Sunday a game they must win or draw, if they are to qualify for the tournament as they pray for a draw in the Cape Verde-Lesotho game.
Can Uganda afford to lose the Tanzania game?
Uganda is the only country in these qualifiers which has not conceded any goal, Coach Sebastian Desabre’s men are likely to work even harder, not to lose that record.
Captain and goal keeper, Denis Onyango may wish to maintain his clean sheet and unless otherwise, that will make it very hard for the Tanzanians to score and subsequently, register a win.
The Cranes are currently in Egypt where they are expected to have the last training in the evening before setting off to Dar es Salaam. They had a practice game against El Gaish, a top flight side in Egypt which ended one all. Before leaving for Egypt, Cranes has edged Kampala Region Select team 4-0.