Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Cairo, Egypt
UGANDAN coach Sebastien Desabre yesterday described as fake, media reports that he taunted Zimbabwe as the weakest team in Group A soon after the Total Africa Cup of Nations finals draw.
The Frenchman allegedly suggested, at the time, that his team would be competing for second spot since the group was likely to be won by seven-time Afcon champions, Egypt.
Zimbabwe and Uganda collide tonight in the first of two matches at the same venue – Cairo International Stadium – with the second game featuring Egypt and DR Congo.
“Zimbabwe seems the least lucky team of the group, but I know their squad and their great qualities. The group is complicated even though Egypt is the favourite to top it and our team will compete for the second spot,” Desabre was quoted by Goal in April.
When facing Zimbabwe journalists at a Press conference here yesterday, Desabre described the report as fake.
“I have been waiting to set the record straight. Some news is not true, it’s fake. I respect Zimbabwe and it’s impossible to take Zimbabwe as a weak team because they have great players like Billiat (Khama), Musona (Knowledge), Chigova (George), Hadebe (Teenage) Devine (Lunga). It’s a very nice and good team. I also have so much respect for your coach Sunday Chidzambwa and I respect his team so much and everytime Zimbabwe has played Uganda it has been a very difficult moment for Uganda and we are taking this game very seriously and we know it will be difficult for us. Zimbabwe lost the first game, but they played very well,” he said.
Zimbabwe and Uganda have met 14 times, with the Warriors claiming seven wins, while the other matches ended in five draws and two wins for the Cranes.
The Warriors are likely to have support from Egyptian fans, who would not want to have a Ugandan victory as that might complicate matters for them in the event that they fail to collect maximum points against DRC later tonight.
If the Cranes win tonight, they will virtually book their place in the second round in a tournament where the top two teams in each group and the four best runners-up, will compete in the knockout stages.
Eight teams, the six bottom teams and the two third-placed teams that would have an inferior points or goal tally to the best four third-placed teams, will also be eliminated.
The Warriors have never qualified beyond the group stages of this tournament, while the resurgent Cranes, who ended a 19-year wait for a return to the Afcon finals two years ago, won their first Nations Cup game since 1978, with a 2-0 win over a lifeless DRC.
The Warriors can’t afford to lose tonight, although a draw, in the worst case scenario, could still be a good result in the event they beat the DRC in their final match.
Zimbabwe can still lose though and still make the second round with a win over the Congolese, in the event the results in other groups favour them, but their fate would no longer be in their hands.