Uganda stun Egypt in Kampala

  • Emmanuel Okwi

Uganda stun Egypt in Kampala

Uganda Cranes beat Egypt for the first time in 52 years with a memorable 1-0 victory at Namboole on Thursday to go top of Group E in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Tanzania-based striker Emmanuel Okwi got the solitary goal in the 51st minute to lift Uganda to seven points, one better than the Pharaohs who now lie second.

Third-placed Ghana, on one point, host bottom side Congo Brazzaville on Friday in a must-win tie for both who are playing catch-up.

Only the group winners will qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia and it was perhaps implausible that Uganda, who last beat Egypt in 1965, a 5-1 drubbing, would be the group leaders after three games.

Seven-time African champions Egypt have been to two World Cups, the last of which was in 1990, while Ghana are seeking a fourth straight tournament appearance.

Okwi’s goal could be changing the course of history in a manner similar to the way he controlled a high ball on the edge of the six-yard box in a half-empty stadium.

He switched the ball from right to left before slotting it past a near-static Esam El-Hadary, now 44 years old, and winning his 145th cap, in the Egyptian goal.

“It’s great to win and we have beaten a real giant,” Okwi stated in the post-match press conference. Over the past 52 years, Uganda has endured annihilations, the biggest a 6-0 result in 1995 in Alexandria.

With a return leg to come in Alexandria on Tuesday, Okwi, ignored for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, preached caution. “We know it’s going to be tough so we have to keep our feet on the ground,” he added.

Uganda largely kept Liverpool ace Mohammed Salah quiet except for the two moments. The first, a header required Denis Onyango to pull off a save at his near post.

His over the top pass was met by Saleh Saleh only for Africa’s best Onyango to tip over as Cranes held on for what is arguably Uganda’s biggest result ever.

“It’s as sweet as it lasts. We encountered many situations where players struggled to keep going because for many the season has just started,” Cranes’ interim coach Moses Basena stated.

Arsenal midfielder Mohammed Elneny failed to impose himself on the Ugandan midfield manned by Khalid Aucho and Hassan Wasswa.

“We did a good job closing them out. It’s not easy playing a technically gifted side like Egypt and many doubted us. Now this brings a bit of pressure,” Basena said.

Uganda has never been to the World Cup. For now, the dream is firmly alive.