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Road to Ghana '08: From maths to prayers!

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th September 2007 03:00 AM

HOPE might be brittle but it remains a most enduring human asset. Much like patience, in fact! The next one month is destined to test whether Cranes’ fans possess both virtues as Uganda waits — on a bed of nails — for its Nations Cup fate to be decided.

HOPE might be brittle but it remains a most enduring human asset. Much like patience, in fact! The next one month is destined to test whether Cranes’ fans possess both virtues as Uganda waits — on a bed of nails — for its Nations Cup fate to be decided.

By Joseph Opio

October 12:

Sierra Leone v Benin
Togo v Mali


HOPE might be brittle but it remains a most enduring human asset. Much like patience, in fact! The next one month is destined to test whether Cranes’ fans possess both virtues as Uganda waits — on a bed of nails — for its Nations Cup fate to be decided.

Cranes defeated Niger 3-1 at Namboole over the weekend — a result that would have sufficed to earn a Ghana ‘08 invite hadn’t South Africa and Zambia contrived to produce a ‘suspicious’ score-line that catapulted both COSAFA nations to the biennial finals.

The outcome in Johannesburg — and results elsewhere — dictate that Uganda and Benin are locked in contest for the last best runners-up spot. Ugandans have waited three decades for the Cranes to finally reappear in the Nations Cup.

But even to the most enduring fans, the last 30 years will seem like an instant compared to the unbearable torment of the coming month as an entire nation waits for Benin to duel Sierra Leone on October 12. No wonder some fans have gone pessimistic.

Their hopes have already been dashed twice — and these fans believe that pessimism will provide insurance against another broken heart come October 12.
But — as their optimistic compatriots will contend —if a death row convict can dare dream of a last-ditch presidential pardon, why can’t Uganda which — unlike the convict — is yet to even receive a death sentence?

A hitherto unremarkable West African state, Benin will — during the coming month — find itself as the sole recipient of the undivided attention of Ugandan fans.

As will Sierra Leone, Togo and Mali — Benin’s Group Nine rivals. Sierra Leone must avoid defeat at home to redeem Uganda. Failing that, Togo and Mali must tussle out a draw for Uganda to sneak into Ghana.

With Sierra Leone likely to be upset at home by bookmakers’ favourites Benin, the most optimistic among Ugandans hope that Togo and Mali will cancel themselves out when the two West Africans rivals lock horns in Lome.
The probability of that happening is extremely high — especially if the first leg is a barometer.

Then, both teams huffed and puffed for the entire 90 minutes before Dramane Traore scored in injury time to grant Mali a 1-0 victory over Togo. Both nations are in the same weight division — with 48th FIFA-ranked Mali a mere 12 spots above Togo.

The fact that the encounter in Lome will be a winner-takes-all, losers-surrenders-all affair makes the expectations of a stalemate realistic.

That both teams have conflicting goals to work towards makes the possibility of a South Africa-style result unattainable.
The Sparrow Hawks of Togo know that nothing but a win will propel them past the Eagles of Mali — who currently hover above them in Group Nine due to a superior goal difference.

Likewise, Mali is aware that only a win would guarantee a Ghana ’08 berth.
A draw will keep them above Togo but it won’t prove sufficient for qualification if Benin, nicknamed the Squirrels, beat Sierra Leone in Freetown.

So, with both Mali and Togo targeting a win, the law of averages decrees that a draw might be the eventual outcome.
Ugandans will hope that that particular law will alter its 30-year frown and finally smile upon an expectant nation!

Runners-up table
P W D L F A Pts
*Tunisia 6 4 1 1 12 3 13
*South Africa 6 3 2 1 10 4 11
Uganda 6 3 2 1 8 3 11
Eq.Guinea 6 3 1 2 6 7 10
Mozambique 6 2 3 1 5 4 9
DR Congo 6 2 3 1 8 6 9
Algeria 6 2 2 2 6 6 8
Benin 5 2 2 1 8 4 8
*Best three qualify

Road to Ghana '08: From maths to prayers!

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