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Afcon 2019: Cranes touch down in Cameroon ahead of East African contingent

Cranes lands in Cameroon without conceding a goal, a clean record that none of the other 48 teams in 12 groups can talk of after South Africa's virginity was breached by Nigeria an hour before Cranes kicked off

FOOTBALL | Sebastien Desabre might have charmed Ugandan women with his looks, but it is his patience and composure as a coach that mattered at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, Saturday as Uganda Cranes wore down Cape Verde en route to qualifying for Cameroon 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final.

Patrick Kaddu scored the decisive goal 12 minutes to the end of a pulsating encounter, glancing substitute Allan Kyambadde’s flirtatious cross past the despairing dive of Cape Verdean custodian Thierry Graca.

The victory guaranteed Uganda a back-to-back qualification to the continent’s premier soccer showpiece for the first time since the round robin format was introduced in 1968. Uganda have qualified without Africa’s goalkeeper of the year 2016 Denis Onyango conceding a goal.

Eight years ago, Uganda Cranes needed to just tuck home Harambee Stars of Kenya to qualify but had a nervous 90 minutes that left the nation with broken hearts as Kenya held out for a dour draw at Namboole.

But Desabre’s team exudes quite some admirable confidence and the patience of warriors waiting in a Trojan Horse. There were no signs of nerves even when the visitors threatened from time to time.

The Tubarões Azuis (Blue Sharks) kicked off the match with their feet on the turf of the impregnable fortress that Namboole is to Cranes, but their hearts 24 hours and 4,360km away in Maseru.

Whereas the Cape Verdeans had to win at all cost to keep their dream of making it to Cameroon alive, a result of any kind wouldn’t mean much as long as The Likuena (Crocodiles) of Maseru are able to drown and crunch Taifa Stars on Sunday.

A defeat for Tanzania would leave Cape Verde with their fate in their own hands come March 2019 in the penultimate Group L fixtures as they host Lesotho.

But a win was the most important for Cape Verde in Kampala as it would buy time, the result of the match at Setsoto Stadium on Sunday notwithstanding.

Caution to the wind

The Blue Sharks had therefore set up their team to throw anything that could fly in the kitchen at the Cranes. The trio of Nuno Rocha, Ryan Mendes, Jorge Semedo flattered to deceive for the better part of the game, and will count themselves unlucky after failing to make the most of at least three second half chances with the score still 0-0.

Godfrey Walusimbi’s indecision in dealing with aerial challenge on the stroke of the hour would have proved costly after Denis Onyango’s desperate lunge on the edge of the box came to nothing.

With the Sundowns custodian rounded off, it was Murushid Juuko’s timely clearance that averted the biggest danger of the match.

Picking out forwards

Desabre is a man who has set out to develop his side to play a flowing and fluid game, but against opponents that threw caution to the wind, often leaving only Elvis Manuel Macedo at the back, picking out the Cranes forwards and wide men with long balls became a crucial tactic as long ball after another found the Blue Sharks rearguard exposed.

Yet Cranes just couldn’t get the final touch right. With Emmanuel Okwi suspended, the drive that has typified the Cranes attack from the right was minimal, and the hard shots were reduced to tamely effort that Graca just picked like a cleaner would empty water bottles.

Faruk Miya, who scuffed a golden chance on 15th minute after turning his marker inside-out to remain with only the goalkeeper to beat at the edge of the six yard box, could only thump a header wide unmarked from six yards out.

It was the kind of an aerial layout that many a forward would have scored while sleep-running.

But Patrick Kaddu made the amends when a similar inviting cross found him running into the right area and at the right pace.

The victory sees Uganda Cranes on 13 points, eight more than Tanzania. More impressive is that Uganda are the only side to not have conceded a goal in the qualifier of 12 groups.

South Africa, the only other side that was yet to concede, had their rearguard breached by Nigerian in Group E an hour before Cranes kicked off against Cape Verde.

Interestingly, Desabre has not been setting the team to play a defensive approach. But in March in Tanzania, the Frenchman will no doubt call on his back four of Waisswa, Juuko, Walusimbi and Nicolas Wadada having a good synergy with the spoiler in Aucho play with their hearts on their boots as Onyango wears his on his gloves.

Tanzania dare to dream

The Taifa Stars of Tanzania are flirting with their own history on their boots when they take on Lesotho in Maseru on Sunday.

Victory at Setsoto stadium will seal the Stars’ ticket to Cameroon with Uganda having sent them a gift hamper by beating Cape Verde.

Should Tanzania win tomorrow, they will become the second East African nation to make the roaster after Uganda, with Kenya and Burundi all a win away from landing in Cameroon.

Rwanda, the other member of the five-nation East African Community, need a miracle starting Sunday when they host Central African Republic with one eye on the event in Conakry where Guinea will host Cote d’Ivoire.

Kenya’s match against Sierra Leone awaits Caf decision due to Fifa’s suspension of the Sierra Leonean FA but they sit top of with seven points from four matches.

Lineups

Uganda

Denis Onyango (GK)©, Murushid Jjuuko, Khalid Aucho, Denis Iguma, Nicolas Wadada, Godfrey Walusimbi, Hassan Wasswa Mawanda, Faruku Miya, Isaac Muleme, Patrick Kaddu, Moses Waiswa.

Sub: Charles Lukwago, Joseph Ochaya, Awany Timothy, Juma Sadam,Taddeo Lwanga, Lubega Edrisa, Allan Kateregga,Nsibambi Derrick,Milton Karisa, Magoola Salim, Allan Kyambadde

Cape Verde

Thiery Graca (GK), Ianique Tavares, Fernando Varela, Carlos Rodrigues, Elvis Manuel Macedo ©, Jeffry Fortes,Helder Luis Lopes Vieira Tavares, Garry Mendes Rodrigues, Nuno Rocha,Ryan Mendes, Jorge Semedo.

Subs: Josimar Dias, Luis Carlos Soares, Nuno Joia, Heldon Ramos, Elber Evora, Osvaldo Martins, Admilson Baros,Danilson Cruz Gomes, Bruno Leite, Nivaldo Santos,Julio Tavares,Tiago Almeida

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