History has again been written in 2019 as the Uganda Cranes sealed their passage to the knock out rounds of this year’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The Cranes had made history earlier on as they picked up their first win at the tournament finals after 41 years, defeating DR Congo 2-0 in the first group game a week ago. They have gone one better by qualifying for the knock out rounds for the first time since 1978 despite losing 2-0 to hosts Egypt.
First half goals from Liverpool’s Muhamad Salah and Aston Villa’s Ahmed El-Mohamady at the Cairo International Stadium were enough to condem Uganda to defeat but managed to sneak through to the knock out rounds after Zimbabwe fell to DR Congo.
Earlier, head coach Sebastien Desabre had said the goal is to qualify for the knock out rounds of the tournament.
“Now that this (qualification) has been achieved, we want to stay longer and enjoy the rest of the tournament,” Desabre said after the last Group A game against Egypt.
The Cranes now await their next round of 16 opponents but Desabre would rather they face Senegal.
The Lions of Teranga face Kenya’s Harambe Stars in the last Group C game on Wednesday, with both teams at three points.
“We don’t know who to play but we are in the path that has teams like Senegal and Kenya. I prefer we face Senegal to give us chance to play another strong team,” he said. “I trust my players have learnt a lot so far and will keep picking points from this tournament. I thank all Ugandan for supporting us.”
Desabre made three changes to the team that played against Zimbabwe in their last game, with defenders Nicholas Wakiro Waddada and Timothy Awany and midfielder Allan Kyambadde The Cranes scuffed earlier opportunities with Kyambadde’s long range efforts denied by Egypt goalie Mohamad El-Shanawy in quick succession while Farouk Miya came close with a long range free kick.
Abdu Lumala should have got Uganda’s opening goal after some clever play down the left put him through but he chose to shoot straight at the keeper instead of picking up Miya at the far post with his rebound well match by El-Shamawy.
However in the 31st minute, the Cranes were dealt there first blow after Salah’s well taken free kick beat goal keeper Dennis Onyango who despite getting a hand to it could not keep it out.
The Pharoahs added their second and what would turn out to be the game winner at the stroke of half time through Captain Ahmed El-Mohamady’s driven strike which took a deflection off Hassan Wasswa.
In the 50th minute, Onyango showed class to deny Salah after the forward was put through on goal.
It became more frustrating for the Cranes as they again failed to find the back of the net. This time Miya was denied from close range by Ahmed Hegazi’s block while Emmanuel Okwi was also denied later on
There was a scare for the Cranes as Onyango was brought off with what seemed to be a drowsy feeling while Aucho was also substituted with a muscle problem.
“Onyango is doing well. He never got injured. He has been down with flu for the last two days but he is very okay,” Desabre said.
The Cranes join Egypt who top group A, Madagascar and Nigeria who qualified from group B, Algeria and Morocco who have already sealed qualification from Groups C and D respectively.
“I am happy with my players. Ugandan football has changed a lot in the last few years. There has been progress with Ugandan football,” the gaffer said.
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