Uganda would have made only 5 Afcons in expanded format

Uganda Cranes players pose for a photo prior to kickoff of their Afcon 2023 qualifier against Niger at the St Mary's Stadium in Wakiso in early June. PHOTO/HANDOUT

What you need to know:

  • Since 1992 when round robin format started, Uganda would have qualified for only five out of the 14 editions if the 24-team format was in use during entire period.

Ugandans are still reeling from the peculiar start to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification, with the Cranes bottom of Group F on a single point from two matches. 

Caf increased teams at the finals to 24 from 16 starting with Egypt 2019, with Sebastien Desabre’s men making it top of the group with a game to spare, and the subsequent failed one in Cameroon. 

Uganda topped their group in the 2019 qualification, meaning that with or without the 24-team format, the Cranes would have made it – only the first time in a “non-affirmative” action round robin setting.

But something huge has to happen in coach Micho Sredojevic’s team if they are to recover from this woeful start and go back to Nations Cup, a feat he managed when he helped Uganda end a four-decade absence from the finals in 2017.

“We must qualify and September matches are crucial for Uganda Cranes and myself as the final bill accounting officer,” said Micho in the wake of Fufa president Moses Magogo warning he must beat Tanzania or pack. 

Generally, Uganda have been perennial strugglers in the last three decades when it comes to Nations Cup qualification.

And as the way things stand, the Cranes also seem to be struggling to make even for the expanded 24-team tournament, although there is still time to arrest the bad trend with four games left in the 2023 campaign.

Yet, a case has been made by some of the former Cranes internationals and observers that had the expanded format of the top two in a group of four teams began early enough, Uganda would have qualified several times.

But a look at editions since the 1992 Afcon qualifiers, when the round robin group format started (without zonal protections), shows that Uganda would have qualified for only five out of the 14 editions, representing just 36 per cent.

The 2013 qualification is not considered because it involved playoffs as Caf transitioned the tournament finals from even to odd years.


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