KAMPALA: The Uganda Cranes will have to be at their best when they face two-time African champions Algeria, Tanzania, and Niger if they are to book a slot for the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations to take place in Cote d’Ivoire.
Uganda will start its quest to get back to the biggest show in the world after missing out on the last one with a match against Algeria’s Desert Fennecs.
Early in the week, Uganda Cranes coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic had made it clear that he would prefer not to face any Arab country or any country from East Africa for fear of tricky fixtures. Unfortunately, he will have to battle Algeria and their fellow Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) counterparts, Tanzania.
According to available statistics, Uganda has not played Algeria in a competitive game for the last two decades. However, the two sides have met in friendly games. Among the thirteen times the two teams have played, Uganda has managed to win five games, with four draws and four losses.
Uganda last played CECAFA rivals Tanzania in a CECAFA tournament match, which Uganda won 1-0, but Uganda previously lost to Tanzania 3-0 in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, despite topping the group and qualifying for the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
Uganda has, however, played fewer games against Niger, and the most recent competitive match the two sides engaged in was the AFCON qualifier game where Uganda defeated Niger 3-1 at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in 2018.
After the draw was conducted on Tuesday night, Coach Sredojevic referred to group F as one of the most competitive groups, noting that Tanzania and Niger have competitive local leagues. But nevertheless, the head coach said he still keeps strong hopes that Uganda can break the barriers.
Sredojevic also said that after understanding how their opponents operate, their side will approach all teams with enough respect. “We are going to play different countries and we need to approach each game as it comes,” he explained.
Mujib Kasule, a former Uganda Cranes player and now a CAF instructor, also does not rule out the stiff competition that the Uganda Cranes are set to face, but believes the Cranes stand a good chance to qualify if they prepare well.
“It’s a good group, and Ugandans should be optimistic that the cranes will be able to sail through it. Kasule told Uganda Radio Network, “If we believe in ourselves and do the right things, I think Uganda can manage to at least finish top or number two, but still qualify.” -URN
Kasule pointed out that Uganda’s first priority should be securing wins in their home fixtures, and they should build on that from there.
Although Uganda has yet to return to the Mandela National Stadium in Namboole, which is being renovated, Kasule believes players must embrace St. Mary’s Stadium if they are to achieve positive results at home.
The former Uganda Cranes striker further explained that the Cranes technical bench should focus on building a formidable team that will secure results. Coach Sredojevic has often been accused of playing a more defensive approach, but Kasule says it doesn’t matter which style of play so long as the team can qualify for AFCON.