After achieving their first knockout stages qualification in 41 years, Uganda Cranes are facing a tough mission when they take on Senegal’s Teranga Lions at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday, as the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations enters its eighth final round.
Uganda, whose last appearance in AFCON knockout stages was in 1978 when they finished runner ups to Ghana, finished Group A in second place behind leaders and hosts Egypt. The Cranes gathered four points after beating DR Congo (2-0), drawing with Zimbabwe (1-1) and losing to Egypt (0-2).
Meanwhile Africa’s top ranks Senegal ended Group C as runner ups with six points, from two victories over Tanzania (2-0) and Kenya (3-0), and one defeat to Algeria (0-1). The Teranga Lions are hoping for their first ever AFCON title, with their best outing dating back to 2002 when they finished as losing finalists to eventual champions Cameroun.
While Uganda are sweating about the availability of their captain and influential goalkeeper Denis Onuango who was forced to leave the field in the last group match against Egypt, Senegal can draw some relief from the fact that their superstar Sadio Mane had finally found his feet. The Liverpool striker missed a penalty but then scored twice against Kenya, to register his presence in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, after missing the first game through suspension and having a shy appearance in the defeat to Algeria.
It’s the first time in AFCON history that both sides lock horns together. The game kicks off at 19:00 GMT.
Optimistic: Sebastien Desabre, Uganda coach
This s is a big challenge because Senegal is very good team. Our team is disciplined and they are giving all their efforts for this match. It’s a knockout game so we are adopting another tactic than what we did against Egypt.
Our chance is difficult because we are facing a very good team and a good coach. We are not afraid of facing any opponent. Our team is qualified and we know Senegal is really strong, but once we enter the pitch we play fairly.
We were not afraid against DR Congo or Egypt, we respect all the teams but we fear none. We will take our chances and hope to succeed. We need to be focused and forget all the previous matches and look forward to the coming one.
We must take our chances: Denis Onyango, Uganda captain
We had some issues but we resolved them and resumed training and we are now just focusing on the game ahead of us. We played against Senegal in a friendly before and we know well how strong they are. We have to give our best and we can as well get our results as planned.
We have to enjoy the game and this moment because we are here and we did a good job. I believe I’m fit and the decision to play or not is the coach’s but medically I’m ready. We played against quality players in Egypt and DR Congo like Senegal and we managed to do well, even against Egypt we were better statistically but they took their chances.
We have to take our chances as it is a knockout game and if you don’t take your chances you get punished.
We are here to win: Aliou Cisse, Senegal coach
We are now in the round of 16 and we are hoping to reach the quarter final. We worked for two years for this moment. Uganda is a strong team and they have great capabilities. They changed coaches but they have the same style. They are a committed team and playing against them needs good preparation. I said before, in AFCON every game has its special characteristics.
Senegal is a great team but achieving success is not a decision. During the past four or five years we have a new team that is trying to achieve success and we are not far from that. We can win the title this time. We played against Tanzania and Kenya, but Uganda has their own style and the challenge is different.
They are a very well organised team. After losing to Algeria we had to go back and work more. In AFCON there are no easy games. I always say we are here to win whoever our opponent is.