Caf rankings place Uganda at number 15 on the continent. This is four places behind rivals Burkina Faso and several ahead of Malawi and South Sudan who make up Group B. On paper, therefore, we should be good for at least second position – which is enough to secure qualification for Afcon 2021.
We did ride our luck though by pulling the lowest rank nation of Pot A (Burkina Faso) but everything else was down to the grit of the last 6 years that saw us climb the ranks from 26th to 15th.
And that is the thing with rankings. The higher up the table one is the bigger their chances of qualification because in our case, not only did it place us squarely in Pot B which meant we avoided tricky opponents like Ivory Coast Zambia and South Africa who lay in the same pot, but that in Burkina Faso we had a more controllable Pot A opponent than say Tunisia or Senegal, to focus upon. We made our own luck.
Our form is almost identical to our group rivals Burkina Faso – two games, one win and one draw. But we edge it because we have a better goal difference and are top of the group. This we achieved by following up a credible 0-0 draw in Ouagadougou with a 2-0 victory over Malawi in Kampala. Then the Covid-19 crisis hit the campaign and play got suspended.
But that momentum is what we shall carry into the double header versus group minnows South Sudan, that was due then, and will now be played next month. Admittedly a six-month layoff can derail the qualification wagon but there is a certain neutrality to this Covid-19 induced suspension.
No nation has been spared its reach and everyone has been off for the same period. In such circumstances I don’t see that the gap between the footballing ability of Uganda and South Sudan will have shrank. We will beat them over two legs and secure our qualification.
If I am sounding cocky it is because I believe that our position in the group and our performance in the last two games should give us more confidence and ‘know-how’ than South Sudan can handle.
First, Uganda hardly loses at home. Second, our biggest rival Burkina Faso, must play us at home (in March 2021). Third, it is being said that to mitigate the travel and logistical complications induced by the Covid-19 crisis, both games of the South Sudan double header, which are only a week apart, will be played in Kampala. This isn’t farfetched seeing that South Sudan has used Kampala as its home ground before. So, if that, as is highly likely, was approved then we will have the standout advantage of having played one more home game than the rest in the group.
So, potentially, we have nine points on offer at home. All we need to secure qualification are six points. My bet is as good as yours.
Circumstances have conspired to throw at us a favourable schedule. It is likely that between Ouagadougou in November 2019 and Blantyre March 2021 we shall have played four home games sandwiched between two away games. I haven’t checked all past Afcon qualifiers, but I suspect this could be a first.
And it all started with our first game which on paper was also our hardest. We got a result in that and the ensuing momentum could see us breeze through our home games and render the final game in Blantyre, academic.