Uganda Cranes Make AFCON Comeback After Nearly Four Decades

Uganda Cranes Make AFCON Comeback After Nearly Four Decades

Uganda’s national soccer team, the Cranes, defeated Comoro Islands by a solitary goal on Sunday in Kampala, ending a painful 39-year absence from the continent’s biggest football bonanza, Africa Cup of Nations.

The match played at the famous Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium in the capital was settled by Farouk Miya of Standard Liege in Belgium who scored in the first half, sending the home crowd into delirium.

The team’s qualification drew applauds from across the nation as President Yoweri Museveni led the nation in congratulating the team.

“Heartfelt Congratulations to the Uganda Cranes for defeating Comoros and qualifying for the African Nations Cup. You have done us proud!” he wrote on his Twitter page.

His fierce political rival, Kizza Besigye also joined Museveni in congratulating the national team for the triumph.

“Uganda will be at AFCON 2017 Gabon, because you decided this was the right time,” Africa News quoted Besigye.

The last time The Cranes played at the continent’s biggest football bonanza was in 1978, when they lost 2-0 to hosts Ghana in the final played at the Accra Sports Stadium.

The historic qualification on Sunday ended a series of near misses when the team has tumbled on the last day of qualification.

In 1993, the team missed a penalty and failed to defeat Nigeria at home, a result that would have put them in control of the group.

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In 2011, needing a win at home against Kenya, the game ended in a barren draw after a host of missed chances by the home team and heroic goalkeeping by Kenya’s Arnold Origi.

However, as Uganda’s celebrates qualification, its fierce rivals and one-time regional giants, Kenya’s Harambee Stars will be missing from the show, 12 years since making the last appearance in Tunisia, where they went out in the group stages.

Kenya drew one-all away to Zambia’s Chipolopolo on Sunday, a result that also eliminated the 2012 champions from the tournament.

Guinea Bissau was the surprise winner of the group and qualified for the continental event for the first time in their football history, BBC reported.

Other big guns missing from next-year’s showpiece are Super Eagles of Nigeria who won the championship in 2013, after defeating Burkina Faso by a solitary goal in the event held in South Africa.

The Elephants of Ivory Coast are the defending champions. They will face tough competition from seven-time champions, Egypt who eliminated Nigeria from the tourney.

Other teams tipped for glory in Gabon include Algeria, Morocco and Cameroon.

Next year’s competition will be played from January 17 to 5th February. It will be held in Gabon.