Despite crashing out of the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN), Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry says he is pleased with the ‘progress made by his young players’ at the tournament.
The Cranes finished bottom of Group C, bowing out at the group stages for the fifth consecutive time after suffering a heavy 5-2 loss to Morocco at the Stade de la Reunification in Doula, Cameroon on Tuesday night.
“On a general note, we were pleased with the progress of the players,” McKinstry told FUFA media.
“They have learnt a lot and now know that when you get to such tournaments you take your chance. They have gained experience and will be better for the future,” he added.
“But we cannot complain about preparation, when we set out for this project, we made certain requests to the federation in terms of how we can prepare the team.”
“I think we got 90% of what we asked for which is very good. To be honest that was pleasing.”
“But the intensity of the game in competitions is different from what you get in pre-match tournaments,” McKinstry noted
Depending champions Morocco finished top of the group after a well-deserved win over the Cranes and progress to the quarter-finals of the tournament alongside Rwanda.
Heading into the game, Uganda needed victory to progress to the quarter-finals, and while McKinstry declared that the game carried the significance of a cup final, his side came short of producing a performance worthy of that.
“It was a game we all always knew it would be challenging for us,” McKinstry said.
“The penalty obviously could not have come at a worse time. We are not complaining about the penalty. I think it was a fair challenge.”
“We made some mistakes and we got punished as we also started chasing the game. Congratulations to Morocco and we wish them the very best for the rest of the tournament.”
Uganda struck first through Ibrahim Orit in the 25th minute but his goal was cancelled at the stroke of halftime when Ayoub El Kaabi scored from a penalty forcing the game into a one-all draw at the interval.
Morocco returned from the dressing room hungrier, taking the lead for the first time in the game through Soufiane Rahimi, six minutes into the second half.
The game was put beyond the Cranes reach in the 71st minute by Hamza El Moussaoui’s goal before Rahimi completed his brace with Morocco’s fourth.
Uganda did pull a goal back through Saidi Kyeyune in the 84th minute before goalkeeper Charles Lukwago turned the ball into his own net as Abdellah Khafifi attempted a low cross in stoppage time.
McKinstry’s side drew their opener 0-0 against Rwanda and then lost 2-1 to Togo hence leaving their qualification chances hanging by the thread coming into the game against Morocco.
Fellow East Africa side Rwanda who beat Togo 3-2 in the other Group C game, qualified in second place on five points two behind eventual group winners Morocco who gathered seven points.
Debutants Togo finished third on three points they collected in their 2-1 win over Uganda on Friday last week.
There were hopes that the Cranes would finally break the jinx and advance to the quarter-finals of CHAN for the first in five attempts following advanced preparations which even saw the team take part in a pre-CHAN Mini tournament where they managed two wins and a draw.
After the Cranes failing again at CHAN, focus will now turn on the upcoming AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.