Back-to-back ties against Tanzania make or break

Uganda Cranes' Travis Mutyaba (R) fights for the ball with Tanzania defenders Dickson Job (L) and Jasin Mzamiru. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO

What you need to know:

The Cranes face the Taifa Stars on March 24 and 28 well aware that negative results in those two matches will further curtail their chances of returning to Afcon finals. The Tanzanians equally view the two games with the same significance. 

The two Group F opening matches and general form of the four teams suggest that Niger, Uganda and Tanzania will have to feed off Algeria's crumbs to have their own meal. 

Algeria hit Uganda 2-0 in Algiers and followed that with a 3-0 thrashing of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam to sit beautifully on top of their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification pool.

The Desert Foxes top on six points with five goals against none in two matches. 

The Cranes are bottom of the group on one point with no goals scored against two conceded. 

Niger lead the trailing pack having picked a 'home' point off Tanzania and another valuable one away to Uganda.

Now, should Niger surprise us in Algiers on March 23, they will have become the first team to live with the Algerians in this group.  

However, it is fair to suggest that the above scenario may be highly unlikely, especially given that this tie is in Algeria.

But even if Algeria went ahead to serve Niger the expected medicine over their two ties, it will still come down to results between the chasing trio to determine the potential second qualification spot.

Which leaves the back-to-back clashes between Uganda and Tanzania the Cranes most important matches if Micho Sredojevic and his men are to qualify for Ivory Coast 2023. 

What Uganda need 

The trajectory suggests that Algeria are running their own race two games in, as Niger could find out, too, as soon as next week. 

Anything less in Algiers will be the qualifications biggest shock, yet. 

Back to Uganda, the Cranes actually have it in their own hands.

Micho's men win both their games against Tanzania in the next two weeks and they are on seven points with two matches to go. 

That would greatly lift the mood and belief in a Cranes camp that neither remembers how to score a goal nor win a game. 

The Cranes final two matches are away to Niger, who could well be out of contention by the time they meet Uganda, and at 'home' to Algeria. 

That 'home' game against Algeria will unfortunately be played out of the country, too, because of substandard stadiums in Uganda. 

But before that, a further point against Niger - the earlier scenario involving Tanzania holding - would move Uganda to eight points, leaving the Cranes leg room heading into the final game against Algeria.

There's a job to do

You only hope these 'what ifs' don't get the players ahead of themselves, because there is work to be done, first. 

"These two matches against Tanzania are not going to be easy," cautioned Cranes defender Joseph Ochaya in a rejoinder to his earlier interview with the Daily Monitor.

Ochaya was appearing on NTV Sport Knights on Monday.

"Those that fight more on the day will win but I trust in ourselves that we will win.

"In my opinion we want this game more than the Tanzanians because we know the feeling of being at Afcon. So we shall fight."

Both Uganda and Tanzania last played at Afcon at the 2019 edition in Egypt. 

Ochaya allayed fears that playing the home game in Egypt takes away Uganda's advantage. 

"I can say we shall both be away, so it will go down to who is hungrier than the other."

The left wingback also dismissed suggestions that playing away suits Uganda because they won't have fan pressure as would be the case back home.

"Pressure is on social media," he said, "but if you are a fan that goes to the stadium to watch us play, no pressure. 

"Actually, we want the fans in the stadium. In fact, if you can, travel to Egypt. And to all the fans in Egypt, come watch the game."

It should be noted that whatever permutations Uganda hold heading into their two encounters, the Tanzanians are plotting the same, which makes for a very good viewing for neutrals.

Both teams know the two matches are their gateway to Ivory Coast next year. 

Elsewhere, the local based Cranes players enter a residential camp in Kampala today before travelling to Bundibugyo District in Western Uganda on Friday for a game against Kitara Region.

Of these, the selected will travel to Egypt on Sunday, where they will be joined by their foreign-based counterparts in time for the showdown with Tanzania. 

Ivory Coast Afcon 2023 Q 

Group F standings              

                    P       W    D       L      GD   Pts

Algeria      2     2     0       0     4        6

Niger          2     0    2    0     0        2

Tanzania       2     0     1    1    -2        1

Uganda      2     0      1    1    -2       1

Upcoming fixtures

March 23: Algeria vs. Niger

March 24: Uganda vs. Tanzania

March 27: Niger vs. Algeria

March 28: Tanzania vs. Uganda

June fixtures

Tanzania vs. Niger

Uganda vs. Algeria

September fixtures

Niger vs. Uganda

Algeria vs. Tanzania

Uganda Cranes provisional squad

Goalkeepers – Jamal Salim Magoola (Richards Bay), Alionzi Nafian (URA), Charles Lukwago (St George), Joel Mutakubwa (Gaddafi)

Defenders – Gavin Kizito (Al Ittihad), James Begisa (URA), Aziz Kayondo (CD Leganes), Derrick Ndahiro (URA), Livingston Mulondo (Vipers), Geoffrey Wasswa (KCCA), Timothy Awany (Iron Ashdod), Halid Lwaliwa (FK Bregalnica), Kenneth Ssemakula (SC Villa), Rogers Torach (Vipers)

Midfielders – Siraje Sentamu (Vipers), Aucho Khalid (Yanga), Bobosi Byaruhanga (Austin), Steven Sserwadda (New York Red Bull II), Isma Mugulusi (Makedonikas), Allan Okello (KCCA), Farouk Miya (Caykur Rizespor)

Forwards – Emmanuel Okwi (Erbil), Rogers Mato (KCCA), Joseph Ochaya (Al Makawdoon), Travis Mutyaba (Villa), Steven Mukwala (Asante Kotoko), Fahad Bayo (MFK Vyskov), Richard Basangwa (Wadi Degla), Sadat Anaku (Dundee United), Rogers Mugisha (UPDF)

Tanzania squad

Aishi Manula, Beno Kakolanya (Simba SC), Metacha Mnata, Kibwana Shomari (Young Africans SC), Datius Peter (Kagera Sugar FC), Yahya Mbegu (Ihefu FC), David Luhende (Kagera Sugar), Dickson Job (Young Africans SC), Bakari Mwamnyeto (Young Africans SC), Abdallah Mfuko (Kagera Sugar FC), Ibrahim Baka (Young Africans SC), Mudathir Yahya (Young Africans SC), Sospeter Bajana (Azam FC), Mzamiru Yassin (Simba SC), Yusuph Kagoma (Singida Big Stars), Ramadhani Makame (Bodrumspor, Turkey), Abdul Suleiman (Azam FC), Edmund John (geita Gold FC), Feisal Salum (Young Africans SC), Khalid Habibu (KMKM FC), Anuary Jabir (Kagera Sugar FC), Simon Msuva (Al-Qadsiah, Saudi Arabia), Mbwana Samata (KRC Genk, Belgium), Novatus Dismus (Zulte Waregem, Belgium), Alphonce Mabula (FK Spartak Subotica, Serbia), Kelvin John (KRC Genk, Belgium), Ben Starkie (Basford United FC, England), Haji Mnoga (Aldershot Town, England), Ally Msengi (Swallows, South Africa), Hamid Mao (Ghazl El Mahalla SC, Egypt), Said Khamis (Al-Fujairah, UAE)


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