Uganda Cranes flight halted by gutsy Niger

Uganda Cranes players celebrate Milton Karisa's goal

Uganda Cranes players celebrate Milton Karisa's goal during their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Niger in Kampala, Uganda on June 8, 2022. The game ended 1-1. 

Photo credit: Pool | FUFA

What you need to know:

  • This was the first post-Covid pandemic Uganda Cranes match to be attended by fans, and they were far from happy at the end
  • The Cranes goal also had a slice of luck, Karisa's ball in, for all it's intentions a cross, swerving over an outstretched Kassali Daouda in Niger's goal for 1-0 on 43 minutes
  • The result leaves Uganda bottom of Group 'F' with one point and Niger second on two

Uganda were fully on coach Milutin "Micho" Sredojevic's script of 'officially' "starting their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying" last evening until Mamadou Amadou Sabho's rude interruption.

With just over 15 minutes to the end of the game at St Mary's Stadium, Kitende, the Niger no. 8  seized the ball outside the 18-yard area and sweetly drove it in past Charles Lukwago  for the equaliser.

The Cranes had been riding on a 43rd minute Milton Karisa goal and the crowd.

This was the first post-Covid pandemic Uganda Cranes match to be attended by fans, and they were far from happy at the end.

"Micho Out," one fan hoisted a poster in front of Fufa CEO Edgar Watson outside the stadium as another unleashed a salvo questioning why Micho was still in charge of the team.

Watson, in his usual affable smile, listened in and just nodded as if in agreement. This is a man who took in even sharper vitriol in his playing days at SC Villa.

Micho, who helped end Uganda's four-decade absence from the Nations Cup with the 2017 Gabon edition, however, felt the Cranes were unlucky.

He also reiterated that while it was a disappointing result, he will fight until the end.

"If you go by the performance, I believe we deserve to win, however football is a very cruel game," he said.

"And after 102 games coaching Uganda Cranes, this is the hardest I've ever felt.

"However, we are in a mini league with Niger and Tanzania, and we believe we have everything to win that second place and still qualify for Africa Cup of Nations."

The result leaves Uganda bottom of Group 'F' with one point and Niger second on two. 

Leaders Algeria and Tanzania was a late kickoff in Dar es Salaam.

Micho made three changes from the team that started against Algeria, Bobosi Byaruhanga starting in place of Marvin Youngman, Fahad Bayo ahead of Allan Okello and Aziz Kayondo getting the nod at the expense of Isaac Muleme.

The Serbian also kept faith in Gavin Kizito at right back after the youngster's struggles in Algiers and the SC Villa player indeed put in a better performance, here.

The retention of Faruku Miya, who fluffed a one-on-one chance in the first half, and Emmanuel Okwi signaled Micho's preference for experience in the final third but the pair's bodies were, again, evidently still in disagreement.

In all fairness, though, this was a marked improvement from the sobering in Algeria, yet all evidence suggests this is just about Uganda's level currently.

The Cranes goal also had a slice of luck, Karisa's ball in, for all it's intentions a cross, swerving over an outstretched Kassali Daouda in Niger's goal for 1-0 on 43 minutes.

Karisa went down on his knees, hands and face to the sky in thanks. 

The sigh of relief on Cranes bench and players as the latter bunch ran to celebrate with Karisa could be felt. 

Micho looked to keep the press on, withdrawing Miya for a swifter Allan Kyambadde on 53 minutes. 

But against the run of play, Niger struck, Cranes ceding possession and Sabho driving in a beauty from distance.

The emptiness was real, deflation visible. Micho's face told of 'there we go again.'

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