Like a boxer battered, face swollen and bruised; a Leo Adraa-coached Uganda Cranes hardly had an idea what had hit them.
By the end of 90 minutes, the Cranes could not locate their 3-0 first leg home victory as Mauritius had landed one heavy blow after another in the 18th, 32nd and 89th minutes to force extra time.
With Cranes’ three-goal cushion, few envisaged things turning out the way they had in 90 minutes in this 2006 Afcon/WC preliminary qualifying round. It took David Obua’s 112th minute extra time goal to see Cranes through to the group stage 4-3 on aggregate. No wonder Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic is warning his side against complacency after Uganda beat Mauritania 2-0 to have one foot into the group stage of the 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers.
“We want to be professional,” says Micho, “We don’t want the Mauritius scenario again. We have to remain focused and keep our eyes on the ball.” But how did the Cranes train derail in October, 2003? “You guy!” exclaims Obua in an exclusive interview with us yesterday.
“I remember Ibra (Sekagya) and Tenywa (Sula) were in defence. We were so confident going into the game. Call it over confidence but we were so ready after the 3-0 in Kampala. “I told Ibra and Tenywa that it was not possible we would not win this game. Before we knew, the first goal went in, Ibra shook his head, then the second, the third; we could not believe it.”
The former Kaizer Chiefs and Hearts star, who scored 15 goals in over 30 Cranes caps adds: “I asked Ibra, what’s up? Ibra just told us to at least defend and push it to extra time and maybe penalties.
“During training, our goalkeeper Mugisha (Ibrahim) had noted that the goal we were attacking was slanting a bit. So as we went into extra time he told me to shoot low with my boot when I get chance.
“So when this chance came, I struck it hard and it went in through that same corner. That remains my best game ever. If we had lost that game we were going to be out of international football for a year. “It’s very hard to play away, it doesn’t matter the size of the opponent. If they score one, they can easily score another. But I think we shall score in Mauritania. The boys are not bad.”