The Uganda Cranes will be hoping to end a 42-year wait to reach the African Cup of Nations knockout rounds when they clash on Wednesday at the Cairo International Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 19:00.
The Cranes got their AFCON campaign off to a flyer, picking up an emphatic 2-0 win over DR Congo on Saturday, their first win at the tournament since the 2-1 semi-final win over Nigeria in 1978.
Another win for them against Zimbabwe could all but guarantee Sebastien Desabre’s men passage into the knock round of the tournament while it could mark the end for Zimbabwe after suffering a 1-0 defeat against hosts on the opening day.
This is the first time both teams do meet in history. Prior to the game, there were mind games played with either sides claiming prior knowledge of their opponents. Cranes captain Dennis Onyango went as far as saying that he has been spying on Zimbabwe players.
“We are playing against a very good team and to be honest and I know 90 per cent of their players. I have been spying on Zimbabwe players” Onyango said during a pre-match press conference.
Onyango will come up against ex Mamelodi Sundowns teammate Khama Billiat whereas 14 of the Zimbabwe squad ply their trade in South Africa and have played against Onyango at least once in their careers. Therefore, there is a bit of know-how in either camps.
Zimbabwe head into the game with victory on their minds as they believe a result in this game could rejuvenate their hopes of making the knock out round.
Zimbabwe Coach Sunday Chidzambwa acknowledged the fact that his team need to forget the result in their game against Egypt but should focus on getting victory over Uganda if they are to save their campaign.
“We lost against the home team (Egypt) and I think we had a good game. I told the players to forget about this match. Uganda are a very good side but we will need to fight hard for the entire game and hopefully we get a good result that will revive our qualification hopes.”
His opposite number, Desabre called for focus and calm from his players because the previous win was just a step towards achieving their objective and that Zimbabwe will provide a harder challenge.
It’s a very important game for us. We need to forget the first game result. We top the table now but we need to have a minimum of four points to qualify, Zimbabwe is a very good team and it’s not easy for us to play against them. But we shall do our best,” he said.
Desabre said they will need to make a decision on defender Murshid Jjuuko who could miss the game due to fear of accumulation of bookings. The defender may be replaced by Ronald Mukiibi as Hassan Wasswa’s partner with Bevis Mugabi and Geofrey Walusimbi keeping their spots.
Pacey winger Abdu Lumala who was hauled off against Congo with what seemed to be a knock has been cleared by the medical team for the game.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe will surely miss the services of goalie Sibanda who was substituted with an injury to his fingers against Egypt but the rest of the squad are available for the game.