Fans should manage hope but also dream

Colourful fans cheered the national team. 

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Football
  • Our view: Uganda remains a country that should continue to work to ensure they make qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations a habit.

Uganda is in the middle of a long qualifying campaign for the 2026 Fifa World Cup to be held in Canada, Mexico and the US.

The national men’s team – the Uganda Cranes – have won two of their opening three games in group G to accumulate six points and lie third.

That is the same number of points as the group leaders Algeria, who have been to four editions of football’s biggest extravaganza.

Second-placed Guinea also have six points, which is the same tally as Mozambique, who lie fourth.

Botswana (three points) and Somalia (zero) complete the six-team group. Nine African countries are guaranteed direct qualification to the first 48-team World Cup.

The winner of each group will directly qualify to the World Cup, while the four best group runners-up will participate in play-offs to determine which team will advance to the inter-confederation play-offs.

It is still a long winding road even after the Uganda Cranes beat Botswana 1-0 in the first international game played at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in five years.

Clearly, Group G is very tight but some may not want to hear that if Uganda were to beat two-time African champions Algeria today at Namboole.

Such a result would almost certainly put Uganda in pole position to qualify for the World Cup for the very first time. This is exactly what dreams are made of.

However, here is a word of caution. The bulk of the players featuring for the national team presently are vastly inexperienced.

This 10-game campaign is going to be a learning curve amid a much-discussed transition. Some had even not played at this stage for Uganda until last week.

The task, therefore, is to take every lesson and use it to fry some of the smaller fish that hangs on the horizon.

Uganda remains a country that should continue to work to ensure they make qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations a habit.

They made it to straight editions in 2017 and 2019 but failed to meet the qualifying grade in 2021 and 2023.

This has largely been down to massive retirements of the team that ended a 39-year absence from the Afcon.

That team was built over a period that touches 10 years prior. Aware of this, it is important to manage the expectations of the current side.

The qualification for the World Cup must be used to mould this unit into one that can qualify for the next few Afcon tournaments and create a period of sustained success.