Playing at the World Cup has never been among the wildest dreams of the Uganda Cranes. After all, this year was the first time they qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in the lifetime of anyone who is 40 and under.
Uganda always goes into World Cup qualifiers as routine, not expecting to qualify, but we now find ourselves seated at the top of our qualifying Group E, ahead of continental soccer giants Egypt and Ghana.
After Uganda Cranes humbling Egypt with a 1-0 score line this Thursday evening at our fortress, Mandela National Stadium in Namboole, the first time we have beaten the Pharaohs since 1965, there is hope that we could be in Russia come next year.
Six minutes into the second half, on form Cranes striker Emmanuel Okwi waltzed around Egyptian players including Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny with some fancy footwork and slotted the ball into the net past veteran goalkeeper Essam ElHadary.
On the other end of the field, Denis Onyango ensured a barren day for Liverpool player Mohamed Salah who punished Arsenal in a 4-0 drubbing last weekend.
Little wonder many Ugandans commented that Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger should hire the Cranes backline and the safe hands of Onyango because they have demonstrated they can frustrate Salah.
Uganda stands top of the table with seven points from three games, ahead of Egypt with 6 points and Ghana with just one point. Ghana hopes to take their tally to four when they take on the group’s whipping boys Congo Brazaville this Friday.
There is a return leg in Cairo this Tuesday and a win or draw for the Cranes will keep our World Cup hopes very much alive.
We are only half-way the journey and Cranes usually chokes in the final rounds after giving Ugandans false hope, but fingers crossed. We did it with Afcon, World Cup here we come.