Cynics will reasonably ask; what’s different this time? Well, a lot is different this time.
Uganda v Kenya (Today, 4pm)
Nations Cup Qualifier
Uganda v Comoros (Sunday, 5pm)
Cranes have bungled up a couple of previous Nations Cup qualifying campaigns on the final day.
And because of this, some Ugandans are so sceptical of Cranes’ 2017 Nations Cup qualifying prospects marching into Sunday’s decisive fixture against Comoros.
As painful as Adam Ssemugabi’s penalty miss against Nigeria in 1993, and faltering episodes in Lesotho (goalless-2007), and Niger (3-1 defeat-2008) were, it’s the disastrous events against Kenya and Zambia that still hurt the most.
In 2011, Cranes needed a win from any of their two games against Angola and Kenya to qualify for the finals and failed. They still couldn’t qualify in the penalty shoot-out against Zambia in 2012.
The final games of both campaigns were at home —Mandela National Stadium, Namboole —but home advantage still couldn’t count.
Cynics will then reasonably ask; what’s different this time?
Well, a lot is different this time.
Although the spine of the team largely remains the same from previous qualifiers, you could safely say that the likes of Denis Onyango (goalkeeping), Tony Mawejje (midfield) and Geoffrey Massa (striking) are more mature now, and that —under Micho Sredejovic —the current Cranes’ goal scoring threat has been spread throughout the team.
“We have learnt a lot from previous campaigns. This is the moment. I am very fit for the game on Sunday, and I am sure so are the other players in camp. We’ll give everything,” Massa told New Vision.
Massa and holding midfielder Khalid Aucho regrouped with the rest of the Cranes side on Saturday aware that all that Cranes need to do, following their previous away win over Botswana, is beat Comoros to end Uganda’s 39 year drought from the finals.
A win against the Island outfit, currently bottom of Group D with three points, will earn Cranes 13 points —which will be the highest point tally of all teams looking at making Africa’s top showpiece through the two tickets available for the second best finishers.
As it stands, Groups A, B and C present Uganda’s main challengers.
In Group A, Tunisia (10) and Liberia (9) are the closest rivals, just as DR Congo (12) and CAR (10) in Group B, and Mali (13) and Benin (8) in Group C.
But the beauty about this is that unlike the Cranes, who will face hapless Comoros on the final day, the rest of the other challengers in all three groups (A, B and C) will face each other.
In Group A, Tunisia will face Liberia, in Group B, DR Congo will host CAR while in Group C, Mali will battle Benin —a scenario that plays to Cranes advantage as none of the teams that finishes second is likely to match Uganda’s 13 point mark!
Micho will utilize Cranes’ friendly against Kenya on Tuesday to assess the fitness levels, try out different tactical formations and also work on small but very important details like set-pieces.