Uganda/Mali: Cranes Desperate to Exit Afcon With Scalp of Mali

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Port-Gentil — The Cranes bus ride from Stade Port Gentil back to the team’s base at Hotel Du Parc was a mixture of emotions, thoughts and pensiveness.

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The 25-minute ride from the stadium seemed to take forever with many players disappointed at having lost to an Abdallah El-Said goal scored two minutes to full-time.

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Yesterday, the team made the short chartered flight to Oyem low on morale after an energy-sapping defeat to the Pharaohs, but the players have vowed to give their best in Wednesday’s match against Mali.

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The game will be of no consequence to Cranes but the Malians have a mathematical chance of advancement.

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“I will pick the strongest possible side,” Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic told Daily Monitor. “We lost two games to a mistake and a late defensive lapse but against two quality sides that are used to playing at the Africa Cup of Nations.”

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Something in the pocket

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“Against Mali, we want to depart with a victory for our fans here and the people back home in Uganda because they have put in a lot to support the boys. We also want to leave the tournament with something in the pocket and obviously it won’t be easy against a very strong Mali team that is fighting for qualification.”

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Veteran Cranes midfielder Tonny Mawejje, who was impressive against Egypt, was left crushed by Saturday’s result.

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“We are very disappointed,” Mawejje remarked. “We worked hard all through and felt we were going to hold out against Egypt but it was not meant to be.”

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“Now we must lift ourselves for the Mali game because it is the next game for Uganda; we do not want to fly back home without a positive result at the Nations Cup.”

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The team is going to continue with intense preparations for the Mali match because ‘there are several lessons to learn for a country like Uganda’ according to Micho.

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“You must remember that Uganda has been away for so long and whatever they (players) are experiencing is something like a new learning at the highest level of the game in Africa.”

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Russia 2018 dream

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Egypt, like Ghana, are Uganda’s World Cup opponents and Mawejje sees no reason why Cranes should not attempt to qualify for the Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup.

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“We lost to both teams but these Afcon games will help us prepare for the World Cup qualifiers because Egypt are not what they once were and Ghana is a familiar opponent.”

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Uganda sit second to Egypt in the World Cup qualifiers and have a double header with the Pharaohs later in the year. Goalkeeper Denis Onyango’s belief in Cranes chances of an improbable 2018 World Cup place is high.

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“We are here because we deserve to be there (second on the table) and it is a good thing that we have gauged ourselves against Egypt. By the time we play them in the World Cup, we will know who exactly that are and I believe we didn’t look shabby (on Saturday).”

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Crucially, however, the team must devise a solution to the striking conundrum that has been Uganda’s handicap in the qualifiers and at Gabon 2017.

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RESULTS – GROUP D MATCHES

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  • Ghana 1-0 Togo
  • Egypt 1-0 Uganda

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