Odds stacked against Cranes as Atlas Lions stroll in the Douala park

Monday January 25 2021
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Togo left the Cranes in a spot of bother. PHOTO/COURTESY.

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Tomorrow is a case of two deeply contrasting fortunes, yet – depending on results elsewhere – Uganda can still beat Morocco and both progress.

Yes. That Casio calculator time again, although Cranes coach Johnny McKinstry men’s calculus has been simplified this time, albeit the hard way.

There is no ‘if you draw and the others don’t win or if you win and the others draw’ scenarios.
Uganda must do what they have never done in a final Chan group game, and that is win, if they are to remain in Cameroon. Beat defending champions Morocco, who eliminated them 3-1 at the same stage in South Africa 2014, and they are through. No two ways!

The stakes
Such are the odds for Cranes. On top of their own worries having picked just a point from games against Rwanda and Togo, they come up against a team that is under pressure to defend the title.
But that will not be McKinstry’s focus. “As a nation,” said the 35-year-old Northern Irishman, who is under his own pressure to perform, “our target is still to go deep into the tournament.”

He had just watched a rather improved performance from the goalless draw with Rwanda, Saidi Kyeyune’s cracker of a goal highlighting the game despite losing it to Togo on Friday.
“If we can reproduce our display against Togo, especially the second half, and add quality in the final third, we can get a result against Morocco.

“So when that happens, we will be off to the quarterfinals and aiming forever. I know people are disappointed now but we have to get our heads up and know that we have the quality to cause Morocco problems.”
In North Africa, McKinstry’s Moroccan counterpart, Houcine Ammouta, is not expected to return home after the group stage – not literally.

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He told the media after a goalless draw with Rwanda that the final group game was “a must win to avoid any unpleasant surprises.”

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Uganda's technical team will have to assemble a Cranes team that must overcome Morocco to better their chances of advancing to knockout stages of CHAN2021. PHOTO/COURTESY.

Encouraging
What should encourage Uganda, perhaps, is that the Morocco that blitzed to the title in 2018 is a complete contrast to the one in Cameroon in terms of flair and effectiveness.

In 2018, the Atlas Lions breezed past Mauritania and Guinea 4-0 and 3-1, respectively, in their opening two group matches. By the end of the tournament, they had scored 16 goals, including a 4-0 victory over Nigeria in the final.
In Cameroon, Morocco have laboured to a 1-0 win over Togo, thanks to Wydad Casablanca’s Yahya Jabrane penalty.
The difference between Uganda and Morocco so far has been the North African’s mean defence.
While the Cranes have conceded twice in the 2-1 defeat to Togo, Morocco – although they have also scored just once like Uganda – are yet to let in any goal.

The calculators...Quick permutations

Perhaps the Cranes will get encouragement from KCCA’s recent performances against Moroccan clubs to believe they can actually win.

Any of the four Group C teams can qualify for the quarterfinals. Uganda and Rwanda must win while Morocco can still progress after a loss if Rwanda hold Togo to a draw.
If teams are tied after head to head record, goal difference rule is activated.
amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com

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