The Uganda Cranes will have to be at their best when they face two-time African champions- Algeria, Tanzania, and Niger if they are to book a slot for the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations to take place in Cote D’Ivoire.

Uganda will start its quest to return to the biggest continental showpiece after missing out on the last edition of the championship with an away fixture against the Desert Fennecs of Algeria.

Early in the week Uganda Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic had made it clear that he would prefer not to face any Arab country or any country from East Africa for fear of tricky fixtures. Unfortunately he will have to battle Algeria and fellow Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) counterparts Tanzania.

According to available statistics, Uganda has not played Algeria in a competitive game for the last two decades, however, the two sides have met in friendly games. Among the thirteen-times the two teams have played, Uganda has managed to win 5 games, 4 draws, and 4 losses.

For CECAFA Counterparts Tanzania, Uganda last faced them in a CECAFA tournament match in which Uganda won 1-0, but previously Uganda had fallen to Tanzania 3-0 in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, although Uganda went on to top the group and qualified for the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.

Uganda has however played fewer games against Niger, and the most recent competitive match the two sides engaged in was the AFCON qualifier game where Uganda defeated Niger 3-1 at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in 2018.

After the draw were conducted on Tuesday night, Coach Sredojevic referred to group F as one of the most competitive groups noting that Tanzania and Niger are having competitive local leagues. But nevertheless, the head coach id he still keeps strong hopes that Uganda can break the barriers.

Sredojevic also said after understanding how their opponents operate, his side will approach all teams with enough respect. “We are going to play different countries and we need to approach each game as it comes,” he explained.

Mujib Kasule, a former Uganda Cranes player and now a CAF instructor also does not rule out the stiff competition that Uganda Cranes is set to face, but believes the Cranes stand a big chance to qualify if they prepare well.

“It is a good group and Ugandans should be optimistic that Cranes has the ability to sail through this group. If we believe in ourselves and do the right things I think Uganda can manage at least to finish top or number two, but still qualify,” Kasule said

Kasule pointed out that Uganda’s first priority should be securing wins in their home fixtures, and build on from there.

Although Uganda is yet to return to the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole which is undergoing renovation, Kasule says players must embrace the St. Mary’s Stadium if they are to secure positive home results.

The former Uganda Cranes striker further explained that the Cranes technical bench should focus on building a formidable team that will secure results.

Coach Sredojevic has been oftentimes been accused of playing a more defensive approach, but Kasule says it doesn’t matter which style of play so long as the team can qualify for AFCON.

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