It’s not over till it’s over is a saying usually used by sports men especially in football. On Saturday, Cranes edged lowly ranked Mauritania with a 2-0 defeat thanks to Brian Majwega and Geoffrey Massa second half strikes.
As it appears, the Cranes have one foot in the group stages of the 2015 AFCON qualifiers as they only need to avoid defeat of at least two unanswered goals to join Ghana, Togo and Guinea in group E.
Nevertheless, complacency must not set in as the return leg awaits in a fortnight away from home.
It’s well documented that winning on the road in African football is no easy feat to achieve as witnessed in the seven Afcon qualification games played over the weekend. Besides Mozambique which snatched a late draw from Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, all home teams recorded victories including minnows Lesotho against Kenya despite the latter dominating proceedings in Maseru for most parts of the game.
Add this to the fact that Uganda has only won two away competitive Afcon/World Cup qualifiers fixtures in over 15 years with the latest coming in 2011 against Guinea Bissau in the 2012 Afcon qualifiers.
Before that, The Cranes had last beaten Malawi 2-1 in Blantyre in 2000 thanks to goals from Hassan Mubiru and the late Majid Musisi (RIP).
Cranes Media Officer Fred Katende warns that the celebrations must be limited as we have still work to do in the return match insisting it’s not easy to win away from home in Africa.
“We should limit the celebrations because there is a lot to be done,” Katende told Kawowo Sports before adding. “It’s not easy to win on the road in Africa and thus we need to plan and prepare for the away tie in the best possible way to avoid being stunned.”
Like Katende, Mauritania coach Patrice Neveu believes the tie is far from over and says they will do all they can to overturn the deficit.
“The game in Mauritania will be much different with our spectators and a much decent pitch unlike here. We missed a number of players due to club duty and suspension and hopefully, we shall have a full house,” Neveu said in a post match conference after defeat.
Neveu who was speaking through interpreter and midfielder Khalil Ahmed from French to English for the press also added that the game is still on. “But we still have 90 minutes at home to fight on,” he added.
Though Uganda has never failed to get past preliminaries in the Afcon qualifiers, they almost suffered a shock against Mauritius in the 2006 qualification campaign which also doubled as one for the World Cup in Germany.
On 11 October, 2003, Cranes beat Mauritius 3-0 at Namboole in the first leg thanks to goals from Asan Bajope, Hassan Mubiru and David Obua but found themselves in a stunning situation in the return match on 16 November, 2003 when the hosts won the game 3-0 in 90 minutes to send the game into extra time.
It was Obua’s 112th minute strike that helped Uganda win the tie 4-3 on aggregate.
This implies that anything can happen thus the team must prepare well for the game knowing that any mistake due to complacency will be punished.
Speaking to Daily Monitor, Cranes coach Mulitin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic promised they will treat the return match in the most possible professional way so as to avoid the Mauritius scenario.
“We want to be professional. We don’t want the Mauritius scenario again. We have to remain focused and keep our eyes on the ball. We have to keep working hard,” Micho said.