The Cranes still feel hard-done by that failure to secure a draw against Egypt last Saturday meant they go into their final group D game at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) against Mali without hope of making it to the quarter-finals.
Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic is desperate to say goodbye to the 2017 Afcon without the burden of his team carrying the wooden spoon. And for that reason, he dispelled talk that tonight’s game is inconsequential.
Micho intends to field his best eleven against expectations that the game against Mali would be used as an opportunity to give his fringe players a run-out.
“Of course to many, the logical conclusion is that we have nothing to fight for in this game,” Micho said. “But the fact is that we do not want to finish last in our group. So, we must beat Mali tonight to ensure that,” he added.
Micho went further to say that Uganda must score and win a game at the Afcon to boost its confidence, so that next time they are at this level, they know exactly what it takes. He noted that a win over a big, athletic and strong team like Mali, who are perennial Afcon campaigners, would boost his team psychologically and make winning a habit.
Micho expects Mali to field their best team. The Serbian tactician not only wants The Cranes to win their first Afcon game in 39 years, but also make up for the disappointment that he bought six brand new suits before the tournament in anticipation Uganda would reach the final.
Cranes captain Geoffrey Massa did not buy that many suits. Instead, he sharpened his boots. But without a goal to his team so far, Massa’s boots have not been sharp enough.
“Beating Mali means we must score. But before that, we must create chances,” he said. “And if we can show improvement in that regard against Mali, we will find it easier in our 2019 Afcon and 2018 World Cup qualifiers.”