Uganda’s best-ever performance at the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) came nine years ago in the 2014 edition in South Africa.
The team, coincidentally under Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, picked a win and draw and needed just a draw against Morocco in their final game of the group but instead lost 3-1.
The Uganda Cranes and Micho find themselves in a similar situation tonight when they face Ivory Coast in a match that could see them break the jinx on their sixth attempt.
The team sits top of group B with four points, Senegal follows with one less while two-time winners the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast have two and one.
The Cranes need a point against the Ivorians to progress but Micho and his team have been beaten five times and are well aware of not counting their chicks before crossing the line.
“We’re going for a real war,” Micho declared in his prematch press conference. “We’re on the brink of history but we understand that there’s a thin line between failure and success.”
He added: “We’re going to approach the game like a cup final.”
Micho’s reserved approach has been largely criticized but got a reprieve after the 1-0 win over Senegal. The victory courtesy of Milton Karisa’s lone strike proved the strength of the team is in its teamwork and collective responsibility.
Nafian Alionzi was on his top form claiming his second clean sheet through blood and sweat saving an indirect freekick, a penalty and several others.
Kenneth Semakula created the goal and several interceptions and clearance that won him the man-of-the-match accolade.
However, besides the goal, the Cranes were second best in everything including the shots attempted, complete passes, possession and defensive discipline in terms of fouls.
Micho knows that for his team to progress, they have to maintain the same or even better form against the Ivorians who are much like the Senegalese in style, physique and approach.
“We need to know that we’re playing a team whose results have not been a reflection of what they’ve put on the field,” Micho explains, adding that “this makes our job harder because now we have to strike a balance between their dangerous attacking points and exposing their vulnerabilities.”
Uganda and Ivory Coast have met twice, the first on June 15th 2019 where the Cranes won 1-0 in a friendly and a goalless draw at the 2018 Chan tournament.
Micho is likely to stick to his winning team with Alionzi in goal as James Begisa, Derrick Ndahiro, Kenneth Semakula and Gift Fred, Geoffrey Wasswa and Marvin Youngman provide cover. Moses Waiswa, Rogers Mato and Milton Karisa are expected to ensure transition into the Ivorians goal as Frank Ssebuufu plays upfront.