Loss to Taifa Stars leaves Cranes with no place to hide

Micho is running out of time. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

Uganda arrive in Dar es Salaam for Tuesday’s reverse fixture bottom of their group on one point from three matches; with leaders Algeria on nine, Tanzania four and Niger two. Only the top two teams will qualify for Afcon 2023

Uganda must beat Tanzania on Tuesday for them to retain any hopes of qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals.

The Tanzanians of course know there is still work to do in Dar es Salaam. But on Friday in the Egyptian city of Ismailia, they chose to revel in happiness. 

Simon Happygod Msuva, as if divinely named for the occasion, had the 60+ million Tanzanians back home ecstatic with his emphatic 71st minute goal as the Taifa Stars beat Uganda 1-0 to go third on four points in Group F.

Not so happy for Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic’s side, who now sit cross-legged at the bottom of the table with one point from a possible nine, the latter figure proudly claimed by leaders Algeria.

Friday’s result has dangerously narrowed Uganda’s qualification chances. The Cranes must now beat captain Mbwana Samatta’s side at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium, a venue they lost 3-0 at in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers.

It was a fairly quiet start from both sides at the Suez Canal Authority Stadium in Ismailia, where Uganda hosted their home match because stadiums back home do not meet Caf’s safety standards. 

Certainly the Cranes did not also meet match winning standards, here.

Both sets of goalkeepers were largely untroubled in the opening half as most of the football was safely played away from goal. 

But when Uganda's was breached seven minutes to half time, the upright came to the Cranes rescue.

Left back Aziz Kayondo, who started in a back four alongside Halid Lwaliwa, Livingstone Mulondo and Kenneth Ssemakula, lunged into Yassin Mzamiru in an area he shouldn’t have been that aggressive, earning a booking in the process.

Novatus Dismas stepped forward to take the freekick and his effort almost embarrassed Cranes goalkeeper Salim Jamal as it crashed off the upright and across the face of goal before the Ugandans cleared their lines. 

The rest of the half had Msuva teasing Ssemakula and Mbwana Samatta battling Khalid Aucho and the back four of Uganda, with Joseph Ochaya, Emmanuel Okwi, and Fahad Bayo probing the other end but with no success.

Cranes coach Micho needed more show of purpose upfront. After the break, he hauled off striker Bayo, forward Faruku Miya and midfielder Siraje Ssentamu for youngster Steven Sserwada, Richard Basangwa and Isma Mugulusi.

Unfortunately, Sserwadda did not last long as he was ruthlessly hacked down by a Tanzanian player moments after coming on. He was promptly replaced by Allan Okello.

Mugulusi was soon busy prodding and taking charge of setpieces, and Basangwa forcing a save from goalkeeper Aishi Manula.

But it is the Tanzanians that first came closest, Jamal pulling off a top drawer tip of a save when a Taifa Stars winger cut inside from the left to curl in a drive. Uganda survived. But not for long. 

Dickson Job charged down the middle, completely outwitting Uganda’s midfield.

He released a colleague down the right, the latter’s perfectly weighted cross drilled to the top corner from close range by an onrushing Msuva, giving Jamal no chance, for Tanzania’s winner on 71 minutes.

Micho threw on his last dice when Rogers Mato replaced Okwi but the Tanzanians game management ensured they took the day and a healthy lead back to Dar es Salaam ahead of the return fixture on Tuesday.

After Tuesday's encounter in Tanzania, Uganda will host Algeria in June and end the campaign away to Niger in September.

Uganda Cranes XI: Salim Magoola (GK), Kenneth Semakula, Abdul Aziz Kayondo, Halid Lwaliwa, Livingston Mulondo, Khalid Aucho, Siraje Sentanmu (Isma Mugulusi), Faruku Miya (Richard Basangwa), Fahad Aziz Bayo (Steven Sserwadda, Allan Okello), Emmanuel Okwi © (Rogers Mato), Joseph Ochaya 

Tanzania XI: Aishi Manula (GK), Dickson Job, Novatus Dismas, Bakari Mwamnyeto, Ibrahim Bacca, Himid Mao, Yassin Mzamiru, Mudathir Yahya, Said Khamis, Mbwana Samatta ©, Simon Happygod Msuva

Ivory Coast Afcon 2023 Qs 

Group F results 

Uganda 0-1 Tanzania 

Algeria 2-1 Niger

Group F standings              

                 P    W  D   L   GD   Pts

Algeria     3     3     0    0     6     9

Tanzania 3     1     1     1     -1     4

Niger        3     0    2     1     -1     2

Uganda    3     0     1     2     -3    1

Next fixtures 

Monday, March 27: Niger vs. Algeria

Tuesday, March 28: Tanzania vs. Uganda

June fixtures

Tanzania vs. Niger

Uganda vs. Algeria

September fixtures

Niger vs. Uganda

Algeria vs. Tanzania