Uganda Cranes will have to wait much longer to make their mark at the Africa Nations Championship after another disappointing performance that saw them bundled out of this year’s tournament after losing 3-1 to Ivory Coast on Sunday night.
The Cranes went into the final match leading group B with four points and needing only a point to break the group stage duck. However, it is the Ivorians who were bottom of the table with a single point and no goal that went on to carry the day and progress.
Frank Ssebuufu watched on as a Constant Wayou free kick flew past him for Sankara Karamoko to head the Ivorians ahead after only twelve minutes.
Mathieu Ouotro doubled the lead fifteen minutes later after calmly running through to pick Habib Koffi’s pass from the centre to beat Derrick Ndahiro and Kenneth Semakula before lobbing over an advancing Nafian Alionzi.
Rogers Mato brought life and belief back to Uganda’s bench when he tagged along Koffi before the latter hacked him inside the area for a penalty in the 32nd minute.
Moses Waiswa fired in to halve the lead before the team’s coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic went for some changes after the break.
Titus Sematimba, Travis Mutyaba and Nelson Senkatuka were introduced but it was coach Souliho Haidara’s introduction of Aubin Kramo Kouane for second goal scorer Outro that made the difference in the 78th minute.
William Sankara ran through for a long pass inside the box before dancing his way past the red shirts before setting up Kouane for the third.
The result coupled with Senegal’s win over DR Congo meant that the latter goes through as group winners while Ivory Coast beats Uganda via the head to head criteria after both finishing with four points.
“I’m very disappointed because by the fact that after 2014, this was our best chance to progress,” A crestfallen Micho said after bowing out.
“On both occasions, we finished with four points but unfortunately they are not enough progress.”
Despite losing, the team showed some improvements in attack as compared to the first two games managing 14 shots, six on target but struggled to string passes with only 289 completed compared to 376 for the Ivorians but only 66 percent of those were accurate.
Micho, who has received criticism of his style of play, took note.
His decision to use Travis Mutyaba sparingly was castigated further as the young star showed glimpses of his capabilities when he came on in the second half but was denied by the crossbar.
“We had the best preparations and I give FUFA credit for that. We had the best game from an attacking point of view but unfortunately, our best wasn’t good enough. The result doesn’t reflect what we deserved [at the end of the tournament] but I give credit to the players. Football is about what you get and not what you deserved,” Micho added.
The team will return as plans to tackle Tanzania in a double-header of match day three and four of the 2023 AFCON qualifiers get underway.