The Cranes of Uganda gave their AFCON hopes a huge boost despite being held to a barren draw by Kenya in a friendly on Tuesday at Kampala.
Uganda, a notable absentee from the final tournament of the showpiece continental championship since 1978, are just a win away from breaking that jinx as they face Comoros in a Group D Day 6 clash on Sunday, 4 September 2016 in Kampala.
Tied on 10 points with Burkina Faso, the maximum points will guarantee Uganda a place at the final tournament either as winner of the group or as one of the best runner-ups.
Leading the cranes to the promise land is Serbian trainer Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, who rates the Kenya friendly as a good step for his team ahead of the must win clash against Comoros, a side they defeated 1-0 at the latter’s backyard last September.
“We thank Kenya for answering our call to help us prepare for the great game on Sunday. It was a good match for us and now we have seen what we need to improve on. We have four training sessions and here we will work hard to be ready for Comoros,” Micho as the Serbian is fondly called told CAFOnline.com after the match.
It has been so near and yet so far for the Cranes the last couple of years missing out on qualification by whiskers. For the 2013 campaign, Uganda forced then holders Zambia to the wire after a Geoffrey Massa strike cancelled Christopher Katongo’s winner in the first leg before the Cranes bowed out 9-8 on penalties.
Prior to that, a barren draw on the last day against Uganda denied them a place in the 2012 edition co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea & Gabon, finishing on 11 points, one shy of Angola.
“We have learnt from the past mistakes and we are ready to make it to the big stage of Africa. It’s not a mistake we are here. We have gone in detail to make sure we leave no stone unturned for this game because it’s a game of ‘life and death’.
“For now, we hope these days will help us prepare intensively. We have the best players in Africa so far. I believe all of my players have performed well at their clubs especially goalkeeper Denis Onyango with CAF Champions League semi-finalists Mamelodi Sundown and he can lead us to where we want to go with such experience,” said Micho.
For the friendly, the Cranes started well with Godfrey Walusimbi who plays his club football with Kenyan champions Gor Mahia making a run on the left to slash in a cross from the left but his club team mate Erick ‘Ouma’ cleared the danger for a corner.
Victor Wanyama had Kenya’s first opportunity with his shot from 25 yards out going over whilst Uganda captain Geoffrey Massa had the best chance in the opening half with his well taken freekick from the edge of the box going inches wide in the 25th minute.
In the second half, Micho brought on five faces, Kizito Luwagga, Mawejje, Farouk Miya, Ochaya, and Geoffrey Sserunkuma coming on with Massa, Walusimbi, Okwi, Yunus Ssentamu and Nicholas Wadada all coming off.
In the 65th minute, Aucho was called into a goal line clearance after Ayub Timbe had beaten the Cranes keeper on the right having been fed through by Wanyama who overpowered Mawejje in midfield to steal the ball.
Three minutes later, Johannah was sent through by Jesse Were and as he strode into the box, he was brought down at the edge of the box by Murshid Juuko, but Timbe’s effort with the freekick went awfully over.
“It was a great game for us, we created more chances than our hosts and for me that is something positive. We need to work on being more clinical and using our chances and hopefully we do well against Zambia,” Stanley Okumbi, the Harambee Stars coach said.
Goalkeepers: Dennis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa), Salim Jamal Magoola (El Merreikh, Sudan), Benjamin Ochan (KCCA), Ismail Watenga (Vipers)
Defenders: Nicholas Wadada (Vipers), Joseph Nsubuga (SC Villa), Bevis Mugabi (Yoevil Town, England), Hassan Wasswa Mawanda , Murushid Jjuuko (Simba, Tanzania), Isaac Isinde (St George, Ethiopia), Timothy Denis Awanyi (KCCA), Rashid Toha (Onduparaka), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers), Joseph Benson Ochaya (KCCA), Godfrey ‘Jajja Walu’ Walusimbi (Gor Mahia, Kenya)
Midfielders: Khalid Aucho (Baroka, South Africa), Tonny Mawejje (KnattspyrnufelagiA A�rottur, Iceland), Geofrey ‘Baba’ Kizito (Than Qu?ng Ninh, Vietnam), Moses Oloya (Kuban Kransndor, Russia), Kezironi Kizito (Vipers), Ivan Ntege (KCCA), William Luwagga Kizito (Feirense, Portgual), Vincent Kayizzi Walugembe (KCCA), Abdulmalick Vitalis Tabu (Villa),
Forwards: Geofrey Massa (Baroka, South Africa), Farouk Miya (Standard Liege, Belgium), Yunus Sentamu (F.C Ilves, Finnland), Emmanuel Arnold Okwi, Geofrey Sserunkuma (KCCA), Edrisa Lubega (Proline), Muhammed Shaban (Onduparaka), Erisa Ssekisambu (Vipers)
Source: Confederation of African Football.