Uganda Cranes are back home after their historic return to the high table of African football – The African Cup of Nations finals.
Uganda played three games, losing two and drawing their final game against Mali.
They flew out of Gabon Thursday via Addis Ababa and arrived Entebbe Airport Friday at 1.40 am.
— Uganda FA [FUFA] (@OfficialFUFA) January 26, 2017
Ku Kisaawe Entebbe, Uganda Cranes naroo pic.twitter.com/hZXeoCyFwS
— Radio Simba (@simbaradio) January 26, 2017
FT: Mali 1 (Bissouma 73) Uganda 1 (Miya 70) ; Egypt 1 (Salah 11) Ghana 0
Senegal vs Cameroon; Burkina Faso vs Tunisia ; Morocco vs Egypt; DR Congo vs Ghana
Africa Cup of Nations Group D
Egypt 3 2 1 0 2 0 7 – qualified
Ghana 3 2 0 1 2 1 6 – qualified
Mali 3 0 2 1 1 2 2
Uganda 3 0 1 2 1 3 1
Farouk Miya scored a historic goal, but it was not enough to give Uganda their first win of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final.
Miya grabbed Uganda’s first goal of AFCON 2017 in the second half versus Mali, the first goal at this level by Cranes since Phillip Omondi scored against Nigeria in March 14, 1978.
Mali responded soon after on a rain-drenched Oyem pitch, Yves Bissouma equalizing soon after.
Belgium-based Miya last year also scored the lone goal against Comoros that put Uganda into their first Nations Cup finals – since Omondi’s 1978 team.
Mali’s midfielder Yves Bissouma (L) challenges Uganda’s defender Godfrey Walusimbi during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group D football match between Uganda and Mali in Oyem on January 25, 2017. AFP PHOTOEgypt top group
Uganda had already been eliminated and Mali needed to win and hope Egypt lost to Ghana to have a chance of sneaking through as runners-up.
But record seven-time champions Egypt won 1-0 in Port-Gentil to top the final standings with seven points and Ghana also progressed with six.
Mali ended third with two points and Uganda, returning to the tournament after a 39-year absence, came last with a solitary point.
Miya gave the Ugandan Cranes a 70th-minute lead in northern Gabon and Bissouma equalised three minutes later.
A torrential pre-match downpour created puddles of water in some areas of the pitch.
In such demanding conditions, teams often prefer a direct, long-ball approach, but the Malian Eagles and the Ugandan Cranes opted for a passing game.
It delivered comical results at times as players from both teams overran a ball that got stuck in the heavy pitch.
Genuine scoring chances were scarce with Mali captain Yacouba Sylla coming as close as anyone to breaking the opening-half deadlock.
Impressive winger Bissouma pushed the ball into the area just outside the box and Sylla unleased a shot that was just too high.
After having a 69th-minute goal correctly disallowed with two players clearly offside, Uganda went ahead almost immediately after.
Belgium-based teenager Miya latched on to the ball outside the box and gave goalkeeper Oumar Sissoko no chance with a stinging shot.
Mali levelled when Bissouma slammed a medium-range free-kick in front of goal past a poorly organised defensive wall and wide of goalkeeper Robert Odongkara.
The first competitive match between the countries took place in a 20,000-seat stadium built for the tournament outside the town of Oyem.
Readying a venue surrounded by a huge rain forest was a close call with workers applying the finishing touches just hours before the first matches last week.
Like the other three Cup of Nations venues in Gabon, the Oyem pitch has come under fire from coaches.
Tournament officials showed little sympathy, however, with one telling Ivory Coast handler Michel Dussuyer “you have played on worse elsewhere”.
CAF committee member and former Senegal striker Khalilou Fadiga was equally unmoved by complaints.
“Let the players not expect the pitches in Africa to be like those in Europe,” he said.
— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 25, 2017
Cranes starting XI: Robert Odongkara; (GK) Denis Iguma, Murshid Jjuuko, Hassan Waswa Mawanda, Godfrey Walusimbi; Khalid Aucho, Geoffrey Kizito, Moses Oloya, Luwagga Kizito, Joseph Ochaya and Farouk Miya
LIVE – AFCON
Uganda Cranes start their final AFCON 2017 game against Mali today with a team minus three key players who started the heart-breaking match against Egypt.
Striker Geoffrey Massa has been dropped to the bench while goalkeeper Denis Onyango and defender Denis Timothy Awany will not be part of one final push for a goal and win due to injuries.
Cranes will hope to wind up their return to the high table of African football with a goal, and win, when they take on Mali today.
“We came here to play three Cup finals — the first we lost on a penalty to Ghana and the second we lost in the last minute on the counterattack. We will see how we play the last match but the ambition remains that we want to go home with pride and with a win.” said Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic as he looked forward to third and final ‘final’.
Uganda, already eliminated after the Egypt defeat, will hope to bow out of their first Cup of Nations in 39 years by registering a first goal and a first win since their last appearance in 1978.
Uganda’s last goal was scored by legend Phillip Omondi as Uganda marched over Nigeria 2-1 in March 1978
Egypt defeat painful, lessons learnt
Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic admitted the way in which his side were knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations with a last-gasp defeat to Egypt on Saturday was a crushing blow.
“We have come after 39 years and paid for the lesson in a hard way. If you lose in a convincing way you accept it, but in this way it is very hard to accept.
“We tried our best but unfortunately it was not enough,” said “Micho” after Abdallah El Said’s 89th-minute strike, from a Mohamed Salah assist, gave Egypt a 1-0 win in the Group D encounter in Port-Gentil.
“This level of competition demands total focus of concentration on details that decide games.
“We couldn’t keep that concentration up to the last moment — when we were supposed to close the game out we allowed a counterattack and the experience and quality of Salah made the difference
“Now we need to pick up the pieces and look forward in order to see who will play the last game — it is hard to say who will play in the last game, we have certain injuries like (goalkeeper Denis) Onyango.