KAMPALA. Tunisia and Ivory Coast were always going to be Uganda’s biggest tests in the build-up to this weekend’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
And at the end of Uganda’s final international build-up match today, January 11, Ivory Coast proved just that; seeing off the Cranes 3-0 in Dubai a few days after the East Africans had scored four goals against one in victories over Slovenia and Slovakia Select teams.
Tunisia, the only other friendly opponents alongside Ivory Coast that will be in Gabon for Afcon, had earlier beaten the Cranes 2-0 – making the aforementioned the real tests if Uganda are to live with the rest at the Nations Cup.
The Cranes lived with the African champions, Ivory Coast, for at least the first 45 minutes before Jonathan Kodjia, Wilfried Zaha and Serge Aurier scored three second half goals to establish the gulf in class.
The Elephants of Ivory Coast commanded possession and were more insightful in forward play in the first period, Franck Kessie missing a free header in their best chance of the half.
Uganda had their own moments too, Kizito Luwagga showing verve with the ball on his feet, Tonny Mawejje’s shot inside the penalty box being redirected out for a corner and Godfrey Kizito’s attempted long range shot going just over the bar.
Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic then made two immediate changes after recess, introducing Robert Odongkara for Denis Onyango, who was struggling with a groin problem, and Moses Oloya for Farouk Miya.
But Odongkara was only just in time to thrice pick the ball from the back of his net in the next 27 minutes.
First, Joseph Ochaya was left for dead on the right wing by Aurier and Kodjia was at the end of his teammate’s cross at the far post, heading past Odongkara for a 51st minute lead.
Timothy Awany was the next victim, tricky Zaha latching onto a through ball into the area before beating the KCCA defender and Odongkara to his far post to double Ivory Coast’s advantage on 58 minutes.
This was Zaha’s first goal for his country of birth after he recently changed allegiance from England, where he grew up.
Ivory Coast captain Aurier completed the emphatic victory with a powerful header past Odongkara off a corner 18 minutes from full time.
Uganda now have to pick up the pieces in time for their Afcon opener against Ghana next Tuesday. Egypt and Mali are the next Afcon group opponents.
UGANDA vs IVORY COAST FRIENDLY
Uganda Cranes XI: Denis Onyango (Robert Odongkara), Dennis Guma (Nicholas Wadada), Joseph Ochaya, Timothy Awany (Isaac Isinde), Hassan Wasswa, Tonny Mawejje, Geoffrey Kizito, Mike Azira, Kizito Luwagga (Godfrey Walusimbi), Farouk Miya (Moses Oloya), Geoffrey Massa (Shaban Muhammed).
Ivory Coast XI: Gbohouo, Bailly, Traore (Deli), Kanon, Aurier, Die, Kessie (Doukoure), Seri, Kodjia (Bony), Zaha (Pepe), Kalou (Gradel).