Uganda: Argentine Soccer Trainer Cuper Credits Cranes

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Port-Gentil — Argentine Hector Cuper is one of the best teachers of classic counter-attacking football.

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That brand of football was well demonstrated during the Egypt coach’s reign at Spanish club Valencia from 1999 to 2001.

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He borrowed from the same script on Saturday night after being restricted by a spirited Uganda Cranes for 88 minutes at Gabon’s Port city of Gentil.

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A back and forth game – where absentees from the Cup of Nations for 39 years, Uganda, made a decent account of themselves against seven-time champions Egypt – saw the Pharaohs strike where it hurt and mattered most.

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The Cranes were retreating from one of their promising surges forward when the Egyptians switched on their counter down the left.

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The move ended at Mohamed Salah’s feet inside the penalty area as Cranes players froze, the Roma forward rolling it on for Abdullah El-Said to rocket home past Denis Onyango at the death for a 1-0 win.

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Agony for Uganda, who were losing their second successive match after Ghana last Tuesday, and joy – if not relief – for Egypt, who were recording their first win in two games.”I respect Uganda and commend them for their performance today,” said Cuper, 61, at a post match press conference, “We had a difficult game against a very tough opponent.”

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Painful lesson

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The narrow defeat for the 1978 losing finalists will have taught them a painful lesson in maximum concentration at this level.

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The Cranes put in a decent shift that won Uganda some hearts here. Sadly, the hearts could turn into points; the reason the Cranes became the first team to exit the tournament.

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Victory for Egypt, their first in two matches, improved their chances to progress to the last eight. They are on four points, two behind their Wednesday opponents and Group D leaders Ghana

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Cuper, however, knows progression is far from assured. “I think all the groups are complicated not only ours,” admitted Cuper.

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“Our qualification is not guaranteed yet, so we have to fight till the end. At the Africa Cup of Nations every match is difficult.

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“I wished to have a bigger scoreline and better performance but I thank my players who did all their best in tough circumstances.”

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Cuper’s counterpart, Micho Sredojevic, was pleased with player’s effort. “It was a moment of experience that made the difference,” said the 47-year-old Serbian.

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“I want to thank my players who gave their best and made their people proud. We came here to play three finals, we lost to Ghana by a penalty, lost to Egypt in the last minute and our ambition is to win against Mali and return home with pride.”

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