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CECAFA 2019: Hosts Uganda face Tanzania, Kenya book Eritrea in CECAFA semis

By Shafic Kiyaga
Uganda players during a recent training session at the StarTimes Stadium, Lugogo | Courtesy photo

The semi-finals of the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup will provide fans with an age-old rivalry which unfolds again on Tuesday at the StarTimes Stadium, Lugogo when Uganda face off against Tanzania.

The Cranes finished top of Group A, winning all their four games, while Tanzania managed to scrap past Group B, needing a draw in their last game against Sudan to seal a semi-final spot. They did that scoring just a single goal in their win against Zanzibar in three group games.

Uganda despite not being as scintillating against teams they previously easily blew aside, they have scored 10 goals, the highest tally in the tournament. But that’s more down to the constant changes that head coach Johnathan McKinstry has made to his team.

McKinstry has not been particularly impressed with what he has seen from his players at times, and ahead of the semi-final, he has implored them to put on the best performance they can offer if they are to keep chase of title number 15.

“It has been a tough tournament, as we have had to play four games in seven days. That’s taken a toll on the players but we have managed them and hopefully, that has helped kill fatigue,” McKinstry noted after the team’s final training session at Rubaga.

“Tanzania is a big footballing nation, and we know that we have to be at our best if we are to be successful, if we are below our best, then Tanzania has more than enough quality in their squad to punish us,” McKinstry said ahead of the game.

“We are focused on putting on our top performance, and if we do, then we have more than enough chances to go through to the finals,” he added.

Both nations have met three times at the semi-final stage since 2010, with the last time coming in 2012. Emanuel Okwi and Robert Ssentongo’s brace guiding Uganda to a 3-0 victory at Namboole.

Uganda defeated the Kilimanjaro Stars 3-1 after extra time in 2011, while the Cranes lost to Tanzania 5-4 on penalties in the 2010 semifinals, as Tanzania went on to clinch their third trophy.

Uganda does not have any injury worries to contend with, as all the players were available for the recovery training session held on Monday at Rubaga.

On the other hand, Tanzania head coach Juma Mgunda who has used almost the same set of players in the three group games remains confident that fatigue will not be an issue to contend with, but he expects a game of fine margins.

“The games don’t get any easy from now. It will be difficult against the hosts, but this is a knockout game and nothing will scare us,” Mguna told Football-256.

“Of course Uganda has their fans to back them, but in knockout games, you need the right moments to fall your way, and if you take them then you give yourselves a better chance of winning,” he added.

In the other semi-final, Defending champions Kenya face off against surprise package Eritrea. The Harambee Stars qualified top of group A, while the Eritreans managed to hold off Somalia to finish second behind Uganda in Group B.

Eritrea will be playing in their second CECAFA semifinal in history, they last played at this stage in 1994, losing out to Tanzania 1-0, before they fell to Kenya in the third-place play-off by the same margin.  

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