Uganda/Mali: Cranes Play for Pride in Final Match With Mali

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Uganda will be playing for pride but Mali in the faint hope that they may still win a place in the quarterfinals of the African Nations Cup as the teams clash in a final Group D encounter in Oyem on Wednesday.

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The Cranes, making a return to the continental showpiece for the first time in 39 years, were the first side eliminated from the finals after defeats to Ghana and Egypt, both by 1-0 scorelines.

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They showed flashes of potential in both those games but find themselves playing for pride against the Maliens, having not quite had the quality to grab a point.

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For Mali the scenario is clear – they have to win and at the same time hope that pool leaders Ghana get the better of second-placed Egypt.

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If they do that, both sides will finish on four points and, having drawn 0-0 earlier in the pool campaign, will not be separated by head-to-head. That will take the tie-breaker to goal-difference, which will favour Mali.

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And so their destiny is not in their own hands. Nevertheless coach Alain Giresse will charge his side with concentrating on what they can control – winning against Uganda.

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“The players are disappointed, but we are not completely knocked out,” Giresse told reporters. “They will be ready to raise their heads for the last game.”

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What will worry the French coach is that his side have not managed a goal, nor unduly threatened the opposition, in their opening two games, though they should find Uganda a softer touch.

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The Cranes coach, Micho Sredojevic, faces an uncertain future after these finals, having been named as a prospect for coach of the South African national team and head coach of that country’s Orlando Pirates club.

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He was philosophical over Uganda’s early exit.

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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,” he said.

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Pride will only come with a win against Mali, a feat that would likely signal Uganda’s campaign in Gabon as a success. Just to be back at the continent’s biggest show after nearly four decades was an achievement, so to win a game against a worthy opponent would make the experience all the more enjoyable.

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