Cairo, Egypt | THE INDEPENDENT & URN | Uganda Cranes will be seeking their first win in 41 years at the Africa Cup of Nations finals when they take on neighbours DRC in their opening match.
This is Cranes’ second straight return to the Nations Cup finals, having featured in the last edition that came three decades after their most famous appearance in 1978.
Uganda stunned Nigeria 2-1 March 14, 1978 in the semifinals, with goals coming from Abdulla Nasur and the irrepressible Phillip Omondi. Uganda stormed the final but lost to hosts Ghana.
It took 39 years before the Cranes broke the Nations Cup finals jinx, returning in Gabon 2017, and should have the experience now to make Egypt 2019 one for the nation to look up to. Uganda could only manage a draw, and lost two as they crashed out in the preliminaries in Gabon.
Today, the Uganda Cranes start against a tricky Democratic Republic of Congo side in a Group A match at the Cairo International Stadium.
Coach Sebastien Desabre’s side will be cheered on by a couple of Ugandan fans who have traveled to Cairo including 2nd Deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja (representing President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni), Omukama of Omukama of Tooro Oyo Nyimba Iguru and Minister of Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda among others.
Cranes seek perfect start
The Cranes will be all out to make a perfect start just like the hosts Egypt who defeated Zimbabwe 1-0 in the opening game that ended this morning.
Assistant captain Hassan Wasswa Mawanda told URN that although they know DR Congo are a very physical side, the Cranes have what it takes to prove a point in this game. “We need to play as a team and take our chances because every game counts,” added the experienced Mawanda. Going into the game the Cranes have been camped in Abu Dhabi for three weeks where they also played two international games drawing goalless against Asian side Turkmenistan and a 1-0 win against former African Champions Ivory Coast.
Skipper and goalkeeper Denis Onyango is expected to command his troops from the back, while Murushid Juuko and Godfrey Walusimbi marshal the backline. Farouk Miya and Emmanuel Okwi are expected to start at the front, while Hassan Wasswa Mawanda and Khalid Aucho handle the midfield.
For the two time AFCON Champions DR Congo they are expected to come all out to try and snatch maximum points. Their coach Florent Ibenge who is leading them in their third AFCON said they should make it to the next stage looking at Egypt as their main obstacle in the Group.
Yannick Bolasie who features for Everton FC in the English Premier League together with veteran Tresor Mputu and Youssouf Mulumbu are expected to play key roles for the DR Congo Leopards.
Cranes starting line up: Denis Onyango, Murushid Juuko, Hassan Wasswa, Bevis Mugabi, Godfrey Walusimbi, Khalid Aucho, Mike Azira, Abdu Lumala, Emmanuel Okwi, Farouk Miya, Patrick Kaddu
P W D L G A GA Pts
Egypt 🇪🇬 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 3
DR Cong 🇨🇩 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Uganda 🇺🇬 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zimbabwe🇿🇼1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0
Additional reporting by URN