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AFCON U20: ‘Being CECAFA champions motivates us’ – Byekwaso

By Brian Aheebwa
Morley Byekwaso talks to his players during a training session | FUFA Media

Uganda U20 Hippos head coach Morley Byekwaso believes his side has all it takes to perform well at the upcoming U20 Africa Cup of Nations.

The 16th edition (23rd if tournaments without hosts are included) of the AFCON U20 is slated for February 14 to March 4, 2021, in Mauritania.

Uganda qualified for their maiden AFCON U20 finals after winning the CECAFA region qualifiers (CECAFA U20 Championship) held in Tanzania in November 2020.

The Hippos breezed past Tanzania in the tournament final, winning 4-1, and according to Byekwaso, winning the zonal qualifiers gives them the right motivation and bigger platform to compete at the final tournament.

“Being the champions of East Africa (CECAFA) is a good motivation and therefore we have to go and represent well,” Byekwaso told the media.

“We shall have to put in a lot of effort and also raise our character if we’re to have a good tournament,” he added.

The Hippos were drawn in Group A alongside hosts Mauritania, Cameroon and Mozambique in the draw held in Yaoundé, Cameroon on Monday afternoon.

Uganda will kick-start their campaign against Mozambique when the tournament gets underway in February in the coastal city of Nouakchott off the Western coast of Africa.

And Byekwaso has already noted the enormity of the challenge in the group saying; “It’s going to be very tough and dangerous in the group.”

All these teams pose specific challenges. For example, Cameroon is an African superpower, Mauritania are hosts, so it’s going be a hard group.”

“We have to do a lot of stuff including the raise of our ball usage skills in order to play well and overcome our opponents,” Byekwaso noted.

The U20 team is continuing with their preparations at the MTN Omondi stadium in Lugogo. Byekwaso summoned over 35 players and as preparations intensify, seven have so far been dropped.

UK based Samuel Moses Kitaka leads the seven names out of the squad, others are; Opio Odong, Emmanuel Mukasa, Umar Lutalo, Okur Swamadu, Obi Obedi and Ronald Kiberu.

Vipers SC duo Abdu Aziz Kayondo and Bobosi Byaruhanga who are currently with the Uganda Cranes at the CHAN tournament in Cameroon, are expected to join the team after the tournament.

It’s going to be the first time the tournament is played with 12 teams since expansion from eight teams from the last edition.

West African side Mali are the reigning champions having edged Senegal 3-2 on penalties following a one-draw in the 2019 final in Niger.

The semi-finalists (four teams) have always represented Africa at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but that would be the case this time around given that the World Cup that was meant to be hosted by Indonesia later this year, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

AFCON U20 Group Stage

Group A: Mauritania, Cameroon, Uganda, Mozambique
Group B: Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Namibia, Central African Republic
Group C: Ghana, Tanzania, Gambia, Morocco

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