Cranes can now dream on

Tuesday July 2 2019

Salah scored a beautiful free-kick past Onya

Salah scored a beautiful free-kick past Onyango in the first half but the Ugandan skipper salvaged his reputation with a point-blank save early on in the second half. Photo by John Batanudde 

By Andrew Mwanguhya

CAIRO- By now you know for sure who between Senegal’s Lions of Teranga and Kenya’s Harambee Stars is standing between Uganda’s quarterfinal dream.

The two were last night’s late kick-off, with the winner completing the match-up with Cranes at Cairo International Stadium this Friday as Uganda play their first Nations Cup knockout game since 1978.

Uganda put up a spectacle against Egypt on Sunday night, beating the Pharaohs in every statistic expect the most important one - scoring.

In the end, it is Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Elmohamady’s goals that put paid to Uganda’s rather poor decision making in front of goal.
But the Cranes had done enough in the opening two matches, which work was complimented by DRC’s resounding 4-0 victory over Zimbabwe, to confirm Uganda’s automatic slot in the last 16.

Open game
“We played an open game but we could have done more both defensively and in attack,” said Uganda coach Sebastien Desabre.
“The most important thing in football is to score. Today (Sunday) we didn’t manage to score. We are very disappointed but I’m proud of my players because we’ve showed a good side of Ugandan football.

“We have qualified for the second round. It was the target of the federation. We played well until Salah scored. That was the key moment.

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“I’m proud of my players and for me I think we deserve this qualification.”
For a team that lost two matches and drew one at Gabon 2017 Nations Cup after a four-decade absence from the finals; one win, one defeat and one draw at Egypt 2019 is nothing to be embarrassed of.

And while Gabon 2017 had 16 teams (this has 24), it should be noted that Uganda, who finished ahead of DRC and Zimbabwe here, are not going back home after three matches.
“We shall improve game by game,” pledged Desabre, who is not worried who they face on Friday.

Knockout game
“The opponent is not very important for us. Kenya or Senegal is not the same level, you know that.
“But for me it’s a game and it’s a knockout game and all is possible in football. What is important is to go there and give the maximum no matter what.”

The Frenchman added: “When you start a competition and you are Uganda, you are not expected to win it but in your heart, and your motivation is you want to win it. “I think we have some qualities like you saw and we want to go the maximum.”

Onyango update
Desabre’s Egyptian counterpart, Javier Aguirre, admitted Uganda “kind of surprised us, forcing us to play long balls but it changed when we scored.

“We now have to look to the next match. There are still many things we have to improve on but we will see. But I have to congratulate Uganda because they gave us a good challenge.”

There is also good news for Uganda as skipper Denis Onyango has been declared fine after he was carried off the pitch with feared concussion.

“Denis had flu from the last two days and it was difficult to finish the game,” explained Desabre, “He is okay.”

amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com

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