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Uganda's date with destiny

By AFP

Added 17th January 2017 12:38 PM

The Cranes taste the Cup of Nations for the first time since 1978, before any of their current squad were born

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The Cranes taste the Cup of Nations for the first time since 1978, before any of their current squad were born

Nearly four decades on from their last appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations, Uganda return to the tournament today with coach Milutin Sredojevic describing a date with 2015 runners-up Ghana as their destiny.

The only side from East Africa at the tournament in Gabon, the Cranes taste the Cup of Nations for the first time since 1978, before any of their current squad were born.

Back then, they lost 2-0 to hosts Ghana in the final, and 39 years later the same opponents await them in their Group D opener in Port-Gentil at 7PM.

"I feel honoured, pleased and privileged to be here. We have worked very hard in Uganda to make this happen. Thirty-plus million people have dreamt to have us here," said the Serbian Sredojevic, better known by his nickname "Micho" and who first began coaching in Uganda in 2001.

"So many things you can escape but destiny you cannot -- the last game of Uganda was in the final of the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. Our first match back after 39 years is against Ghana so there is that symbolic aspect."

Uganda cannot compete with Ghana's record at the Cup of Nations but they took four points off the Black Stars in their ultimately unsuccessful bid to qualify for the 2015 Cup of Nations and also held them to a 0-0 draw in Tamale in World Cup qualifying last October.

Ghana coach Avram Grant has admitted the pressure is on his team as they look to win a fifth Cup of Nations title, and a first since 1982.

The Israeli almost led them to glory two years ago, but they lost on penalties to the Ivory Coast in the final in Equatorial Guinea.

The majority of the 2015 side remains, including skipper Asamoah Gyan, who is preparing for his sixth Cup of Nations.

"No disrespect to the Uganda team, but everybody knows statistically we are ahead of them," said Gyan on Monday.

"If they beat Ghana it's big news for them. If we beat them, people might say it's a normal thing."

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