By Edwin Kyle Kule
The Uganda Hippos continued with their remarkable run at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations U20 tournament as they made the semifinals following their 5-3 victory on penalties against Burkina Faso in the quarter-finals.
The Hippos, playing at their maiden AFCON finals showed great character on the day holding on to secure victory at the Stade Chiekha Ould Boidiya on Thursday.
With the game ending goalless after 120 minutes, the Hippos held their nerves in the post-match penalty kicks.
Goalkeeper Jack Komaketch saving from Djiga Nasser’s kick before Keneth Ssemakula sealed victory.
Derrick Kakooza, Joseph Bukenya, Najib Yiga and Ivan Bogere also scored their respective penalty kicks.
Morley Byekwaso maintained the same lineup that played in the 2-1 victory over hosts Mauritania that sealed qualification to the quarter-finals.
But it is Burkina Faso that had the better start dominating possession and coming close through Ibrahim Bance.
Silky forward Joffery Bazie created a couple of nervy moments for left-back Aziz Kayondo and also had a free-kick rattle the crossbar.
Chances were far and few in the first half as both sides continued to neutralize each other in the middle of the park.
With Burkina Faso limited to efforts from range while the Hippos tried to gain advantage through set-pieces but to no avail.
Uganda’s best opportunity in the opening 45 minutes came via Kayondo’s mazy run down the flank which produced a cross that found Richard Basangwa.
The forward failed to make clean contact with the ball as his shot was straight at the goalkeeper.
Hippos captain Gavin Kizito had to be stretched off following a challenge with Joffery who stepped on his arm as coach Morley Byekwaso rang the changes with Sam Ssenyonjo coming off for Derrick Kakooza.
Burkina Faso nearly had the breakthrough after Biaze’s shot from outside the area deflected off defender Ssemakula but Komakech pulled off two spectacular saves.
The Hippos almost secured victory in first half of extra time after Steven Sserwadda picked up possession inside Burkina Faso’s half, playing Ivan Bogere through on goal but the striker was denied by the Burkinabe goalkeeper.
Kakooza stepped up first to score his third consecutive penalty in the tournament, then Komakech dived to his right to save from Djiga’s effort.
Bukenya, Yiga, Bogere and Ssemakula all buried their penalties for Uganda while Eric Chardey, and Karamoko Bamba scored for Burkina Faso.
Goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim was the hero saving one penalty while another came off the crossbar as the three-time winners reached their first semi-final since 2015
How they lined up
Uganda XI: Jack Komakech (Gk), Kizito Gavin, Abdu Aziz Kayondo, Musa Ramathan, Kenneth Semakula, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Steven Sserwadda, Isma Mugulusi, Ivan Asaba, Samuel Ssenyonjo, Richard Basangwa
Burkina Faso XI: Traore Moussa (Gk), Eric Chardey, Yashir Moustapha Ouedraogo, Yocouba Djiga, Ronald Sanou, Kouame Jean Fiacre, Ibrahim Bance, Yves Clovis Ouedraogo, Joffrey Bazie, Karamoko Bamba, Moubarack Compaore