It was without downright intelligence for Uganda Cranes head coach Milutin Sredojevic Micho, to believe that his boys benefitted a lot from Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to his predecessor Sebastian Desabre’s DR Cong. This was at the international friendly played at Japoma Stadium in Douala Cameroon, the venue where Cranes is this Sunday hosting their Total Energies AFCON 2023Q game against group run-away leaders Algeria.
When Cranes suffered a 1-0 loss at the hands of the Congolese team, even if it was such a narrow loss, Micho needed to have crestfallen himself, pick up the lessons and construct on them in a manner of fine tuning his side than complete belief that the team benefited.
Playing Algeria this weekend just days after the demoralizing friendly result is more like climbing a huge and steep mountain for Micho’s Cranes given the west African squad, charism, intension and past results at this qualification campaign. Algeria has a 100% record in the qualifiers and hold a healthy eight-point clear lead at the top of Group F leading with twelve points.
For Cranes, the match this Sunday is a must-win game if they hope to brighten their qualification for the finals. But first they must first to negotiate past other group opponents Tanzania four points and Niger that has two at the bottom from past four fixtures this campaign.
The Green’s Djamel Belmadi AFCON men qualifying success head into Sunday’s match on the back of eight wins in their last nine fixtures across all competitions, a fierce story to tell in face of Micho and Cranes whose skills and players are fresh off the back of a friendly defeat to DR Congo. Yet, they (Cranes) return to the African Cup of Nations qualifiers against high flying Algeria with a sad qualifying campaign form of two losses, one draw and just a win.
After a woeful start to their qualifying campaign, Uganda tried to rekindle their quest for a first Africa Cup of Nations appearance since 2019 when they picked up a 1-0 victory over Tanzania on March 28. Rogers Mato Kassim is the man that grabbed the headlines in that encounter as the midfielder came off the bench to hand the Cranes a 91st-minute winner at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium.
The two-time AFCON champions Algeria secured an immediate return to the continental showpiece following wins in each of their four qualifying matches so far. Micho is expected to recycle a side this weekend, meaning we could see an unchanged back four of Aziz Kayondo, Halid Lwaliwa, Fred Gift and 20-year-old Kenneth Semakula with veteran striker, Cranes’ all-time leading scorer with 28 goals in 93 appearances Emmanuel Okwi, expected to spearhead the attack, alongside Fahad Bayo.
The sad story for the Ugandan side is that Belmadi has named a star-studded 26-man squad for the game including the likes of Islam Slimani and Manchester United treble winner Riyad Mahrez. Saïd Benrahma, who scored the opener in West Ham United’s 2-1 victory over Fiorentina in the Conference League final, has also been called up, while 18-year-old Badredine Bouanani is the younger player in the Greens’ roaster.
While Uganda will look to safe hands Salim Jamal Magoola and Rogers Mato Kassim as key figures to face a rampant Algeria side, the Greens are firing on all cylinders in the qualifiers boasting a significantly superior and more experienced squad and anticipate them claiming all three points in this one. A proficient analyst prediction places Cranes as an underdog at this match that will be on the receiving end of the pitch as Algeria continue a clean sheet with a 2-0 result on Sunday. Uganda possible starting lineup: Salim; Kayondo, Lwaliwa, Gift, Semakula; Mato, Bobosi, Mugulusi, Miya; Okwi, Bayo
Algeria possible starting line-up:
M’Bolhi; Leris, Touba, Mandi, Bensebaini; Bentaleb, Boudaoui; Benrahma, Aouar, Mahrez; Slimani
- Mr. Daniels N. Tatya is an affluent Sports Writer, Commentator and Editor. His over 15 years of covering almost major sporting events makes him a revered and an authority on investigative Sports journalism in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected] +256(0)758268315
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