Almost six years ago when The Cranes took on Senegal in a 2014 World Cup qualifier, I was lucky to witness the action in Marrakech, Morocco.
It was the fourth time the two teams were meeting with Senegal having won twice while the rest were draws. Uganda needed a win to qualify for the playoff round while a draw was enough for the Senegalese.
I knew it was a tall order back then, even against a Senegal team that had been banned from playing at home due to crowd violence. The match itself was an evenly-contested affair until the last few minutes of the game when Sadio Mane netted the winner to end any hope for The Cranes.
Back then, it was clear The Cranes were going through a transitional phase following the international retirements of Ibrahim Sekagya and David Obua, two key figures in the team. There was a lot of promise in the national team with several players tipped for bigger success in the starting line-up such as Brian Majwega, Denis Iguma and Geoffrey ‘Baba’ Kizito, among others.
Majwega greatly impressed on the left wing, starting out in attack before he ably filled in for red-carded left-back Godfrey Walusimbi. He is now at Maroons FC trying to forge a new lease of life.
Unfortunately, his progression curve has not materialised to the expected proportions.
Whereas Majwega’s position is not a reflection of The Cranes today, they still find themselves facing the same team with cards heavily staked against them. One may wonder why this is the case when both teams lost a group game; you only need to look at how both sets of players have evolved in the last six years.
For instance, there are only seven survivors in The Cranes team that played Senegal with Robert Odongkara, Godfrey Walusimbi, Hassan Wasswa and Emmanuel Okwi being the only starters. The others are Dennis Onyango, Michael Azira and Joseph Ochaya.
By contrast, Senegal has 10 players and has kept the core of that team with the likes of Mane, Cheikhou Kouyate, Ludovic Sane and Lamine Gassama. However, Senegal is renowned for being inconsistent at Afcon, the reason why their golden generations over the years failed to lift the trophy.
Even with Mane and the towering Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal is vulnerable on their off day and should Uganda take its chances, anything is possible. There is no doubt Uganda is punching above its weight but this is an opponent we can shock.
The author is The Observer operations director.