Yesterday, the East African nation became the first team to bow out of the 2017 edition of the African championship, after conceding an 89th minute strike at the hands of the Pharaohs of Egypt, making it two losses in two games in the competition.
The cranes went into the competition carrying the hopes of a football loving nation -a region at that- and after some 39 years of lurking in the shadows of the great game, they were finally ready to compete at the continent’s grandest stage with the continent’s elite, seemingly.
Uganda alongside competition debutants Guinea Bissau were the ugly ducklings, tipped to crumble at blow of the whistle and although this was and is the case so far, the men from the Pearl of Africa could have done better than they’ve done.
The expectations of the Ugandan fans ironically, were more exceeding than the quality of players sent to represent the nation, understandable, considering the cranes were awarded African team of the year prior to the competitions, something that could have had contributed to the cranes’ early exit.
Micho and his men undoubtedly lost the plot, being in a group with Egypt and Ghana -seven time winners and four time winners- and fresh of a 39-year-wait, you’d expect Uganda’s aim to be, realistically that is, to just play football, learn from their encounters and try as much in taking it a step at a time to nick up a goal and beat their opponents.
Uganda had nothing to lose but everything to play for, not for once considered match favorites, the cranes could have concentrated on their own trade, to improve their structure, their tactics, awareness and most importantly their match approach which frankly was lacking.
The cranes have thus far concentrated more on the opponent than they have on themselves, understandable considering how overwhelming the stage is but in so doing lost the plot. Micho should have concentrated on using this stage to mold his team into becoming gradually, bigger, better and more competitive.
Going into the Battle for the Nile against the Pharaohs, in a pre-match press conference “unfazed’’ cranes midfielder Hassan Wasswa told Kawowo sports in reiteration that the current Pharaohs were the shadows of their former selves and not as intimidating as they were before. A team that Uganda’s only triumph came way back in 1965, 13 years before the last time they qualified for a major continental tournament. Which is characteristic of East African football, all talk no show.
While it is a remarkable achievement for the Cranes to take part in a competition that even the Super Eagles of Nigeria failed to qualify for, their performance headlined a regional brand of football, that is far from challenging in the biggest of stages continent-ally and globally. However, the cranes have shown that there is Hope in the future.