Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry believes there is so much the team can take from their 1-1 draw against Cameroon in their first game at the pre-CHAN mini-tournament on Friday evening.
Milton Kariisa’s equaliser for 10-man Cranes at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo did more than earn the Cranes a draw, but was instrumental for the players’ ‘tactical development and confidence’ according to the Irishman.
“We said coming into the tournament that it is not about the result,” McKinstry said after the game, adding; “It was about taking on very good opposition and getting us ready for the main tournament.”
“It was about taking the game to Cameroon and the equaliser was well deserved and on another day, we might have come back and won it.”
“It was great for the fitness of the players and the tactical development of the players and also important for growing the confidence of the players,” he added.
The Cranes were reduced to 10-men after 12 minutes, Ben Ocen seeing red for a foul on Cameroon defender Alfred Meyong.
Cameroon then took the lead a minute later, Banga Bindjelme heading home Felix Oukine’s cross from the right.
With 20 minutes to play, Karisa was at the end of a brilliant build-up play that involved Shafic Kagimu and Joachim Ojera.
Cameroon were also reduced to 10 men after Basile Yamkam also saw red in the 90th minute as he tried to stop a quick counter-attack from the Cranes.
Despite having the numerical disadvantage for much of the game, the Cranes were impressive in possession and showed they have the right personality to get results in testing environments.
McKinstry was particularly pleased that his players showed exactly the kind of approach, confidence and enthusiasm he had demanded from them during the half time team talk.
“I have to watch it again, but I don’t believe the red card because it amazed me,” McKinstry said of Ocen’s sending off.
“But I said to the players at half time we wanted to come here and prepare for the tournament and we were given a great opportunity to play against the hosts a man down for the larger part of the game,” he continued.
“And while most teams, when faced with such a situation, will get men behind the ball and play direct football; we encouraged our players to keep playing and be confident.”
“And for large parts of the game we were the team creating chances from open play and we couldn’t be more pleased with the players.”
“There are things to be improved on naturally, but we felt that we played good football. We know we have speed in the team and on the bench,” the Irishman said.
The game will give McKinstry a bigger picture of his team going into the remaining fixtures that include Niger and Zambia before the tournament climaxes on January 7.