Many Ugandan football fans watching the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations are adamant that had The Cranes been in South Africa, they would also be giving some teams a run for their money.
Indeed, The Cranes would be difficult to beat just like we have seen teams like Cape Verde, Niger and Ethiopia that are always classified as “also-runs” of African football. One thing to appreciate is that football standards have either declined amongst the giants or improved amongst the minnows, leading to a kind of equilibrium.
There are no more white-washes like the 5-1 hammering Algeria subjected to Nigeria back in the 1990 Afcon opening game. Most teams have become more tactically aware – just look at Niger and Cape Verde. They have had to add grit and organisation to their game because that is vital to success at the top level. Put simply, whether you like it or not, to appreciate the gulf in class, the little things are the ones that count.
Even the single penalty that Zambia scored more than Uganda is representative of how better they are. In addition, the persistence of Burkina Faso, scoring the equalizing goal against Nigeria right at the death was a mark of character. And who would have expected DR Congo to peg back Ghana despite being two goals down at one time?
This Afcon is going to be very close, something that may make the games lack the needed spectacle. But it is because there are very little things separating teams. And they count.