The CAF World Cup qualifiers are one of the toughest around, with three rounds ultimately deciding the countries that will head to the Qatar World Cup. However, there is a sense of optimism in Uganda that they could upset the online sportsbook odds and make it to their very first World Cup finals.
The national side impressed during the recent African Cup of Nations when they made it through to the round of 16 stage before being beaten by eventual finalists Senegal.
African Cup of Nations
The round of 16 stage game was a tight affair, and in truth, it could have gone either way. Uganda registered more shots and had 46% of the possession. However, an early Sadio Mane goal would be their downfall.
The Liverpool winger was the only world-class player on show, and it was evident that should Mane have been playing for Uganda, then the result would have been a different one. The national side worked extremely hard throughout their campaign and managed to edge through in Group A, which also contained Egypt, Congo and Zimbabwe.
Uganda won their opening group game against Congo, with the goals coming from Patrick Kaddu and Emmanuel Okwi, before a draw followed in their game against Zimbabwe. A defeat in the final group game against Egypt once again highlighted the lack of world-class players available for the national side. Mohamed Salah contributed the decisive moments in this game. The Liverpool winger scored the first before setting up the second. There is only so far a team can go by working hard, and Uganda will need to unearth a diamond in their team to have the chance of moving on to the next level.
This year’s African Cup of Nations was the furthest that Uganda have got in the competition for 41 years. Their runners-up finish in the 1978 Cup of Nations remains their best-ever finish in the competition, but their 2019 showing marked only the third time since 1957 that the national side had got out of the group stage.
However, their record at this year’s competition was better in many ways. They conceded fewer goals than they did in 1978, and also lost fewer games. They did, however, score fewer also which ensured they weren’t able to win as many as they did on their runners-up performance. Uganda’s record at the African Cup of Nations excluding these two competitions hasn’t been great.
In all other five appearances at the competition, they haven’t registered a win and conceded a total of 27 goals. That does show that there has been an improvement over recent seasons and Uganda can go into World Cup qualification in high confidence that they could achieve something unprecedented.
Since the African Cup of Nations, Uganda have been in excellent form. They have won both games in the African Nations Championship, and also recorded a credible draw against Kenya away from home.
The African Nations Championship wins came over Somalia, where they won the first leg 3-1, before returning home and winning 4-1. The 7-2 aggregate win earned them a place in the second round against Burundi. This success was followed up with a friendly draw against Kenya.
Emmanual Okwi put Uganda ahead, before the hosts struck back five minutes into the second half through Kenneth Muguna. However, there will still be enough positives for Uganda to take away from this game.
They had the lion share of the ball and had more shots, but they will need to more clinical in front of goal if they are to finish top in the group stages of the World Cup qualifiers. Right now, they are like an outsider horse trying to get into the Breeders Cup picks, but everything is possible.