PIC: Uganda Cranes defender Isaac Muleme takes on an Ivorian opponent on Monday night in the last group game. (Credit: CAF)
AFRICAN NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP 2018
GROUP B: MONDAY’S FINAL GROUP GAMES
Uganda 0 Ivory Coast 0
Namibia 1 Zambia 1
(Zambia & Namibia through to quarterfinals)
MARRAKECH – Two defeats. One draw. End of the road. Déjà vu.
It has been yet another premature exit the Uganda Cranes had hoped for not. An early flight back home from an unsuccessful Africa Nations Championship (AFCON) campaign in Morocco.
Coach Sebastien Desabre’s side has failed to make it out of the group stage of the biennial tournament featuring only home-based players for a fourth successive edition. But they will return armed with plenty of lessons plus a consolation cash prize of sh200,000 (sh724m).
Nonetheless, it only remains just that. A consolation.
After Monday night’s goalless draw with Ivory Coast, the continental championship will have offered newly-appointed coach Desabre a perfect opportunity to absorb just how mighty the task he has before him is.
He may not have been with the team for much long so far, but the Frenchman should by now have a clearer picture of the responsibility at hand. Exiting a continental tournament with nothing more than a point from three games will provide critical actors with plenty of fodder for scrutiny as the dust settles.
While opinion surrounding the new coach’s early days in charge is expected to be divided, Desabre will himself have a case in his defence: He has only settled in and time is what he needs.
The tactician watched from the sidelines as his Cranes side, facing the Elephants of Ivory Coast, failed to add to Derrick Nsibambi’s early goal in the tournament. And the KCCA forward’s spectacular strike against Zambia in the first game will register as Uganda’s only goal in this CHAN edition.
That statistic speaks volumes about Ugandan football’s inadequancies in attack.
At Grand Stade de Marrakech, the Cranes, sporting their trademark red and black jersey, got an early glance of what to expect for the rest of the evening when the dreadlocked Kouame Alphonse Yao burst into the area in the fifth minute, only to go crashing onto the surface.
Penalty? No, declared Angolan referee Helder Martins de Carvalho, before flashing a yellow card in Yao’s face for diving. That settled early nerves in the Cranes camp.
The two sides, having last met in 1974 in the Nations Cup, and also on a Monday, provided little going forward. But even then, Yao was danger personified in abundance on the Ivorians’ attacking right flank.
The lanky 21-year-old draws comparisons with Uganda’s Milton Kalisa. Both are as adventurous as they are audacious on the wing. They are not hesitant to attract a challenge and can get nifty on the ball. Both budding players hold a lot of promise within their respective camps.
With not much to show for in attack on either end of the pitch, the Elephants were gifted a delicious opportunity to take the lead when Proline FC’s Mustapha Mujuzi tagged an advancing opponent just outside the box, and was booked for his actions. But skipper Hamed Herve Diomande swept the resulting freekick into Cranes goalie Ismael Watenga’s hands.
Towards the half-hour mark, Tadeo Lwanga had to be helped off the pitch for medical attention, moments before the arrival of the Cranes’ real moment of the opening half, when Sadam Juma’s fierce freekick drew a well-worked save from Ivorian keeper Abdoul Karim Cissee.
The Elephants should have gone ahead one minute into the second half. Mamadou Diomande did well to peel away from a host of defenders in the box, only to be betrayed by his inaccurate left shot that wandered well wide of goal.
On the other end, Alan Kyambadde tested his boot power after muscling his way past one, two opponents in the midfield. BOOM! And wide and high the effort whistled.
With the Cranes seeing more of the ball, it was a second half of goal opportunities. The Ivorians, however, had their moments in front of goal. once, Essis Baudelaire was fed in after cute exchanges in the area, but he struck wide. It was one of the best goal-scoring opportunities of the period.
Sadam again tested the deep waters on the hour mark but, while his long-range effort looked teasingly dangerous, goalkeeper Cisse managed to parry it out of the danger zone.
Twenty-one minutes to time, Kalisa, who was under heavy guard throughout the game, did manage to slip away from his minders and waltz his way into the box. He slid through a pass but a timely intervention saw it out of play. Isaac Muleme made a meal of the resulting corner, his attempt at a curler seeing the ball float beyond the crossbar.
Substitute Brou Manasse N’goh was allowed to test Watenga seconds after coming on, but on the other end, Muzamiru Mutyaba, on for Kyambadde, also came close in front of goal.
The more chances at goal after the interval presented enough evidence that the second half was livelier than the opening session. Either side wanted to bow out of the tournament with three points to their name, but in the end, Uganda and Ivory Coast had to settle for a point each.
The Cranes signed out in third place while the Elephants, who did not score any goal in the competition, finished bottom of Group B.
Meanwhile, Zambia and debutants Namibia, who played out a one-all draw in the other last group match, were already through to the quarterfinals coming into Monday night’s games.
Zambia, who finished top of the group, will play Sudan in the last-eight while Namibia will have a tricky date with hosts Morocco at the same stage.
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