Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic insists that his side can mix it with the continent’s best teams in the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Cranes marked their return to the AFCON for the first time since 1978 when they face the Black Stars in their Group D opener in Port-Gentil last night.
The East Africans are seen as the underdogs of their group, which also includes seven-time champions Egypt and West African powerhouses Mali.
This status seemed to be confirmed by a 3-0 loss to reigning AFCON champions Ivory Coast in their final pre-tournament friendly last week.
Yet ‘Micho’ reckons Uganda is capable of competing with the “big boys” and hopes to see his team continue their improvement.
“I can tell you that seeing all this football and results, we have strong belief that we can play this football and squeeze out results,” the Serbian is quoted by our sport correspondent.
“We are on the same table with big boys of African football and we know they are planning for us but we are ready for the battle.”
Meanwhile, Andre Ayew converted a first-half penalty as Ghana started their latest bid to reclaim the Africa Cup of Nations title with a hard-earned 1-0 victory against Uganda yesterday.
The West Ham United star’s 32nd-minute spot-kick was all that separated the sides on an awful pitch in Port-Gentil as Ghana withstood Ugandan pressure in the second half and ended their recent poor record against the Cranes.
The Black Stars, who have not won the continental title since 1982 and lost on penalties to the Ivory Coast in the final two years ago, can now look forward with confidence to their next game against Mali. “In the first half we dominated the game but in the second half we knew the result was the most important thing and we played to win,” said Ghana coach Avram Grant.
“We missed two or three good opportunities but at the end of the day I am happy and I think we will keep improving.” Uganda will have to wait a little longer for their first goal and points in their first appearance at the Cup of Nations since 1978.
“In 39 years we have not been there and in the first half we had an element of stage fright,” admitted Cranes coach Milutin Sredojevic. Mali and record seven-time champions Egypt were due to meet later on Tuesday, at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT).
Eight of Ghana’s line-up started the final in Equatorial Guinea in 2015, the only exceptions being Thomas Partey, Jordan Ayew and Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey. Ghana had struggled in recent matches against Sredojevic’s side, failing to win any of three encounters spread over the qualifiers for the 2015 Cup of Nations and the 2018 World Cup.
However, Uganda were without key players in centre-back Murushid Juuko and midfielder Khalid Aucho through suspension, and they spent most of the first half on the back foot.
Twice skipper Asamoah Gyan headed just wide and Christian Atsu fired narrowly over before Andre Ayew steered a low shot towards goal only for Denis Onyango to save. After knocking on the door in the first half hour, the breakthrough came when Gyan robbed Isaac Isinde inside the area before being held back.
The referee from Botswana pointed to the spot and booked the defender, with Ayew waiting for Onyango to commit before slotting in the penalty. Atsu, the star of the 2015 tournament, tested Onyango soon after but by that point Ghana had lost left-back Abdul Rahman Baba, stretchered off with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Spurred on by a small but lively band of supporters decked in red, yellow and black, Uganda finished the first half with a flourish and Faruku Miya of Standard Liege should have done better than send in a shot that grazed the post on its way past.
Tonny Mawejje came close and captain Geofrey Massa tried his luck from a 30-yard free-kick that flew inches over Razak Brimah’s bar, as Ghana held on. Indeed, they might have won by more had Atsu not been denied by Onyango five minutes from the end.
Aisha Buhari Cup: FIFA, CAF Presidents Grace Kick-Off, Falcons Win 2-0
Substitute Gift Monday handed Nigeria a sweet 2-0 victory on the opening day of the maiden edition of the Aisha Buhari Invitational Women’s Tournament in the City of Lagos.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State led eminent political big-wigs, and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and CAF President, Patrice Motsepe led football’s top echelon, including President of NFF and FIFA council member, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, to the showpiece at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan.
Monday, interestingly a player of FC Robo Queens of Lagos, spurned in the air to meet a cross by Captain Asisat Oshoala in the 83rd minute and nodded past goalkeeper Fatoumata Karenta, six minutes after coming into the fray for Francisca Ordega.
The goal put the Super Falcons in the lead after a rather turgid day on Lagos island, with the Malians showing greater zest and desire in the opening half and returning after the recess with the same impressive fighting spirit.
The visiting Female Eagles had survived a raid on their area in the 5th minute as Nigeria looked to go into the lead with a corner, but the defence cleared. Nine minutes later, Ordega sidenetted from another quick dash upfront, and in the 18th minute, Ageusissa Diarra tested Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie from a 30-yard free-kick.
In the second half, Uchenna Kanu sidenetted in the 67th minute, before Oshoala, who should have scored with only the goalkeeper to beat, failed to get past Karenta. In the 74th minute, Karenta again saved from Kanu.
In the 83rd minute, Monday rose highest in the box and nodded past Karenta, bringing so much excitement to the arena.
One minute into added time, Monday was again at the end of an Asisat’s assist, and looped the ball over an advancing Karenta to put huge smiles on the faces of Nigerians.
Enyimba Appoints Finidi George As Head Coach
The former Ajax and Real Betis winger, George Finidi, who replaces Fatai Osho whose contract expired at the end of August, has joined the eight-time Nigerian champions, Enyimba FC, on a two-year contract.
George, a legend of Nigeria’s men’s senior national team, made 62 appearances for the Super Eagles in an illustrious playing career that lasted up to fifteen years.
He was a key member of the glorious era that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and represented the country at two FIFA World Cups, the 1994 and 1998 editions.
Tidesports source reports that at club level, George won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1995 and went on to play for Real Betis, RCD Mallorca, and Ipswich Town.
His first official game as Enyimba head coach will be the CAF Confederation Cup’s second preliminary round fixture against Senegalese side, Diambers FC in mid-October.
Speaking to Enyimba’s media immediately after putting pen to paper, George said, “I have to say it’s a great opportunity for the club to have this confidence in me.
“I want to thank the chairman, the members of the board, and the supporters for even thinking about me. On my own part, I will be here to just work and do the job. It’s never going to be easy but I’m here to work and make the team win.”
Chairman of Enyimba, Felix Anyansi Agwu, stated that the arrival of George represents a new chapter for the club.
“I believe that the time has come for us as a club to open up a new chapter, a chapter that will showcase the many hardwork that has been going on behind the scene and usher in lots of success.
“For us to have engaged a coach like Finidi George who is coming from Europe is a clear statement of intent about our aspirations,” Agwu said.
Arteta Sees Light For Arsenal
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he sees a bright future for the club despite suffering their worst start to a season for 67 years.
The Gunners climbed off the bottom of the Premier League table with their first goal and first points of the campaign by beating Norwich 1-0 last weekend.
However, Arteta’s position is still under scrutiny ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Burnley after spending £150 million ($207 million) on new players during the transfer window.
The Spaniard claimed after beating Norwich he had enjoyed the “best 10 days of his career in this industry” during an international break when his side was rock bottom of the table.
And Arteta was equally optimistic on where Arsenal are headed with all six of his summer signings aged 23 or under.
“I’m telling you I’m very positive most of the time. I’ve seen the light and I can see bright lights,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“There can be bumps in the road within that light, but I can see a lot of light.”
Arteta is also hopeful the criticism his squad suffered after defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City will only serve to make them stronger.
“It’s tough because it hurts, because you want to see something different. But what you want is not always what happens,” he added.
“Things happen for a reason and maybe what is happening had to happen and it’s going to be really good for the club and really good for myself and everybody experiencing that situation. We have to believe that.”
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