Words by Matt Carter
Uganda and Guinea enjoyed fruitful opening results, the former claiming the better of a draw away at group favourites Ghana whilst the latter belittled the absence of home advantage to see off Togo in the neutral venue of Casablanca.
Both will have eyes on the second qualification spot, which means the fixture in Kampala could bare significant dictation on who advances to January’s showpiece – although Ghana’s insipid display on Saturday indicates top spot may be anything but out of reach.
A relatively fortunate draw will have heightened aspirations of Uganda – who only missed the 2013 AFCON via an agonising shootout loss – ending a 36 year and counting AFCON exile, and those hopes will have been enhanced further by a hugely impressive showing Kumasi.
But for a contentious penalty the Cranes may have taken full advantage of their tentative opponents and with it assumed group ascendancy.
There is a feeling that Guinea, after a faltered recent history, are beginning to re-emerge as a continental power, with that viewpoint amplified by a 2-1 success in Morocco – although the Togolese were not without their moments.
In their quest to maintain a 100 percent record Guinea will be hampered by the absence of Idrissa Sylla, the scorer of their second goal on Friday night, who is suspended following a sending off 60 into that fixture.
Uganda’s goal in Ghana arrived courtesy of the influential Tonny Mawejje, and he will again be critically if the Cranes can successfully make the transition from underdogs to arguably narrow favourites.
As momentous as the point gained in Kumasi was, it will count for little if Uganda succumb to Guinea. Although, similarly, the National Elephants will also be well aware of the connotations attached to the fixture given next on the horizon for them is a double header with Ghana.
Guinea’s strengths undoubtedly lie in their offensive play however it is defensively where questions marks arise – whether Uganda can put that faulty backline under substantial pressure is liable to go some way to defining in what direction this critical fixture will swing.