Kampala. Uganda have improved so much in the last few years that they can now enjoy the luxury of either qualifying with two matches to spare today or, just be delayed until November 16, when coach Sebastien Desabre’s men host Cape Verde at Namboole.
The Cranes, fresh from a 3-0 thrashing of Lesotho, meet the same opponents for the second time in four days tonight knowing they could confirm their ticket to Cameroon 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals 180 minutes earlier.
“We have the quality to match Lesotho,” said Desabre after one of the training sessions ahead of tonight’s showdown at the Setsoto Stadium.
“It is very important to see that we win the game because the objective is to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (due) in Cameroon.”
All Uganda, who top Group L on seven points, need to do is beat Lesotho tonight and hope Tanzania fail to see off Cape Verde; and a seventh Afcon finals will be confirmed. The last time Uganda played at Afcon successively was at the 1974 and the two subsequent editions.
A Tanzanian victory would move them to five points, with Uganda on 10 and Cape Verde on four.
That would mean that should Tanzania and Cape Verde win their remaining two matches, which include Uganda; they would be on 11 and 10 respectively, consequently bringing other factors between Uganda and Cape Verde into play for one other slot.
A Lesotho victory would meanwhile blow the whole group open and could stretch the race to the final day.
But man-of-the-moment Emmanuel Okwi, two-goal hero against the Basotho at Namboole, says the players are determined to avoid any complications. “We are yearning to return to the Afcon,” said Okwi. Uganda ended their four-decade wait when they played at last year’s Afcon finals in Gabon.
“Every player has that focus. We are determined. Personally, I am motivated by the two goals I scored and this is a confidence booster.”
With the return of Murushid Juuko from suspension, Okwi is likely to start alone upfront as Desabre could shuffle Denis Iguma from central defence into holding role alongside Khalid Aucho – the same way they paired in the goalless draw with Tanzania last month. That would mean sacrificing striker Edrisa Lubega, who had a good debut against Lesotho in Kampala with an assist to his name.
Desabre admitted to Lesotho’s strength in possession and passing of the ball, and in Maseru they will be urged on by the home crowd.
But the Frenchman could also decide to use the psychological edge they bring to this game and still start in his 4-3-3 with Joseph Ochaya, who struggled against Lesotho, giving way.
That would have Juuko as the only new entrant at the back in the team that started in Kampala, with Iguma and Aucho holding, the assured Moses Waiswa thinking behind Faruku Miya to the left, Okwi to the right, and Lubega up top.