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Uganda Cranes start Nations Cup campaign against Ghana

By Fred Kaweesi

Added 20th October 2016 11:03 AM

Back then, the Cranes defied all odds and stormed the final in emphatic style.

Uganda Cranes start Nations Cup campaign against Ghana

Former Senegalese football player Khalilou Fadiga (L) shows a piece of paper bearing the name of Uganda next to Confederation of African Football (CAF) secretary general Hicham El Amrani during the 2017 African Cup of Nations draw ceremony on October 19, 2016 in Libreville.AFP PHOTO

Back then, the Cranes defied all odds and stormed the final in emphatic style.

UGANDA'S GROUP D

(Port-Gentil unless noted)

January 17

Ghana v Uganda 7pm, Mali v Egypt 10pm

January 21

Ghana v Mali 7pm, Egypt v Uganda 10pm

January 25

Ghana v Egypt 10pm

At Port-Gentil

Uganda v Mali 10pm

Uganda Cranes' last appearance at the Africa Nations Cup finals in 1978 was gallant!

Back then, the Cranes defied all odds and stormed the final in emphatic style.

And despite losing the final after collapsing to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of hosts Ghana, Uganda's majestic journey to the final following wins over Congo (3-1), Tunisia (3-0) and Nigeria (2-1) in the earlier fixtures of the tournament, earned Cranes respect and tribute across the continent.

If Cranes are to scale similar heights and remind Africa of their incredible past, the Cranes will have to negotiate their way out of Group D during the 2017 Nations Cup tournament in Gabon next year.

And that is to a certain extent possible considering the opposition that Cranes will face in the group stages.

Cranes coach Micho Sredejovic looked delighted after drawing Ghana, but cut a sheepish expression after drawing Mali and Egypt.

Coincidentally, Uganda is grouped with Ghana and Egypt in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. And this probably explained Micho's expression after drawing Ghana.

Two weeks ago, Uganda held Ghana to a goalless draw —one of several impressive results that the Cranes have registered against the Black Stars.

Suffice it to say, the Cranes have beaten the Black Stars once and drawn twice in their previous three meetings.

Uganda's biggest challenge will come against Mali and Egypt.

Although Mali is a completely different and solid proposition when it comes to the Nations Cup, the Cranes will still draw inspiration from the fact that they matched Mali in their 1-1 draw during the 2016 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) match played at the Umuganda Stadium in Rubavu District, Rwanda in January.

The only hurdle, which will largely be psychological, will come against Egypt.

Uganda's record against Egyptian opposition in youth competitions, club and country has been atrocious over the years.

In 2013, Uganda suffered back-to-back identical 3-0 defeats against the Pharaohs in international friendly matches.

In 2015, Uganda's U-23 side the Kobs suffered a 4-0 drubbing against the North Africans in the third round of a CAF U-23 Championship qualifier in Cairo.

But if the Cranes listen to goalkeeper Denis Onyango, they will fancy their chances against Egypt too.

The Pharaohs are a team still undergoing transition and Onyango will bear witness after inspiring his club Mamelodi Sundowns to a 3-0 first leg win over Egyptian champions Zamalek in the first leg of their CAF Champions League final last Saturday.

The Nations Cup will be held from January 14 to February 5, 2017 in the Gabonese cities of Libreville, Franceville, Oyem-Bitam and Port-Gentil.

The activities surrounding the draw started on Tuesday when CAF oversaw the draw for the tournament's hotels. Training grounds were also selected before a workshop involving all the 16 teams that qualified for the tournament.

Micho and Commissioner for Sports Omara Apitta represented Uganda at the event. The two had a familiarization tour of the four cities that will host the tournament.
 
GROUPS

Group A: Gabon, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau

Group B: Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Zimbabwe

Group C: Ivory Coast (holders), Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Togo

Group D: Ghana, Mali, Egypt, Uganda

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