AFCON 2019: Can Uganda Cranes stop Senegal?

AFCON 2019: Can Uganda Cranes stop Senegal?
Uganda Cranes training at the Arab Contractors' Stadium in Cairo, Egypt for a match against Senegal tonight

Uganda Cranes will be all out to try and re-write more history when they battle Africa’s best ranked team Senegal in the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Round of 16 clash Friday 5th evening.

It’s a case of a well motivated side that won it’s last game 3-0 against a side that lost their last match in the competition 2-0 and also missed a training session in the week because of a sit-down strike over a bonus payment dispute.

But as the saying goes soccer is soccer and the 90-minutes or more at the Cairo International Stadium will determine which team makes it to the quarter final stage.

On paper the Teranga Lions of Senegal led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Italy based Balde Keita are a more proved and tested side that also featured in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

They have exhibited lots of physicality in their approach and boost of a solid defense which has seen them concede only one goal, but netted five in three games.

If the Cranes are to win this evening they must first forget about their recent off the pitch issues and concentrate to win the game.

Head coach Sebastien Desabre must also pull out their best tactics to tame the physicality of the Senegal side, employ a defender to keep out their leading star Mane who has already scored two goals and make sure they convert the chances they create at goal.

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“We need to take our chances because this is a knock out stage. We played a good game against Egypt and our problem was not taking our chances,” said the Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango.

Coach Desabre said although he trusts his team has what it takes to win the game, they must be sharp at goal. “We need to be calm when infront of goal and also have to be disciplined in our play,” said Desabre who will look to Emmanuel Arnold Okwi and Henry Patrick Kaddu to get the goals.

But Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse has made it clear that facing Uganda will not be an easy task. “We are at a stage where you cannot underrate any team. We shall take the game very seriously and must play better than we have done in all our three matches so far,” added Cisse.

AFCON 2019: Can Uganda Cranes stop Senegal?
Uganda Cranes players unleash their football skills during training on Wednesday night at Cairo International Stadium ahead of a match against Senegal

Although they have been close contests Uganda Cranes has failed to beat the Teranga Lions in their three meetings in the last seven years. In 2012 at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in a FIFA World Cup qualifier before Senegal won 1-0 in the return leg played in 2013 played on a neutral ground in Morocco. In 2017 the two teams drew goalless in an international friendly.

In-case Uganda Cranes win they will face the winner between Morocco and Benin at the quarter final stage. Every team that qualifies for the quarter final stage is assured of bagging US$800,000 (Shs2.96billion).

Ugandans hopeful of Cranes win ahead of Senegal game

Meanwhile, several Ugandans are optimistic that Uganda Cranes will win their games against Senegal in the knock out round of the African Cup of Nations.

Esther Katusiime, who works at Café Javas and was donned in a Uganda Cranes Jersey says that the Cranes have impressed in the tournament and she is confident they will progress to the quarterfinals.

She says although the initial strike by the Cranes demanding for more pay could affect the team, there is overwhelming support back home which could be an inspiration.

Marion Natukunda says that the previous performances is an indication that they will defeat Senegal.

Jeremiah Semanda, who has staked for a Cranes win, says that Ugandans have a culture of winning. He says despite missing days of training, Uganda could stun Senegal.

Chua West MP Okin PP Ojara says Uganda will beat Senegal because the current breed of the players are young and energetic.