By Fred Kaweesi
MICHO Sredojevic has vowed to successfully steer Uganda through the restructured 2015 Africa Nations Cup qualifying format.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Monday released a new system that placed Uganda into the preliminaries and ultimately laid out a challenging route for Cranes to Morocco next year.
“I am shocked by the new format. I don’t understand why they chose to change. But no matter what happens, we have to qualify for the Africa Cup,” Micho told New Vision Sport.
The qualifying format that was approved during CAF’s Executive Committee meeting held last Friday, differs from the ‘Pools’ format that had been decided in January last year.
“That’s African football. But we will not be bothered. I will wait and look at the draws then plan accordingly,” Micho added.
The qualifying draw will be conducted on April 27 in Cairo, Egypt, after which Uganda will be able to know their preliminary round opponents.
If Cranes manage to negotiate their way out of the preliminaries that could pit them against two formidable outfits, they will join one of the seven groups that will comprise of four teams each.
The two top teams of each group will then qualify for the Nations Cup directly, along with the third-best placed team from the seven groups.
Unlike in the past where qualifiers have run the course of approximately a year, the 2015 qualifiers will be held in just three months (September, October and November).
And for that reason, Micho is aware that he will need a pool of over 30 players to successfully negotiate the fixture congestion.
To achieve this, he will choose the best performers from the CHAN team and bind them with the cream from the diaspora before May when Cranes are expected to play their first preliminary game.
How Uganda ended up in the preliminaries
Out of the 51 countries engaged in these qualifiers, the top 21 teams listed in the CAF ranking shall automatically qualify for the group phase.
The seven others partaking in the group phase shall be determined following the conclusion of the preliminary rounds, held from May to August 2014.
The top 21 countries were determined by a total points tally gathered from performances over the three previous Nations Cup tournaments (2010, 2012 and 2013), qualifiers to these editions, as well as the qualifiers to the 2014 World Cup.
The most recent editions were given more weight in determining the seeded teams.
The 2013 edition’s points were multiplied by 3, the 2012 by 2 and the 2010 edition by 1.
Countries that qualified for the World Cup were offered seven points, play-off finalists five; then second, third and fourth placed teams in the group stages were accorded three, two and one point respectively.
After the above process, Uganda was placed 27th on the table with just 6.5 points. It means Uganda could face any of the teams that were placed 22nd and above.
And this could lead up to fixtures against either the likes of Libya, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Benin or any of the East Africa rivals Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.