6 July 2012

Africa Nations Cup Draws - Uganda Pitted Against Zambia

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Zambia's Emmanuel Mayuka celebrates a goal.(File Photo)

Kalusha Bwalya's biggest fears crystalised with an African Cup of Nations draw that placed the Zambian legend's national side against the Uganda Cranes Thursday night.

Bwalya, who heads the Zambian soccer federation, had shortly before the draws at the Tanz Café-Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, confided with his Ugandan counterpart Lawrence Mulindwa that he dreaded facing Uganda.

"It is going to be a very tough round. We have to immediately begin our tactical plans for that crucial opening leg in Lusaka," said a visibly worried Bwalya.

Mulindwa on the other hand could not have asked for anything better. The FUFA president had even before departure for South Africa made it clear that Zambia, who are also the Africa champions, was the team he would be most comfortable with in this final round of the 2013 African Nations Cup qualifiers.

"We couldn't have asked for a better draw. It is also very good that we are starting away," noted a jubilant Mulindwa who hastily added that preparations would start early this time.

Should Uganda beat the Chipolopolo, then the 2013 final tournament in South Africa will be without the defending champions.

But what brought most hope to Ugandans was the fact that they would be playing a team they are familiar with. The last encounter between the two sides, a friendly in August 2010, ended 1-1 at Namboole.

The Uganda - Zambia rivalries date as far back as the seventies. One of the memorable battles between the arch-rivals was in 1976 when Uganda beat the Central Africans 2-0 in a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup final in Zanzibar, before repeating the feat in Somalia the following year.

There was also relief that Uganda had avoided the dreaded trip to North or West Africa. The last time the Cranes engaged similar opposition, the end result was catastrophic. Their 6-0 defeat to Tunisia suffered in Tunis on February 28 1999 is the team's worst in history.

The colourful draw was conducted by CAF's Hicham El Amrani together with former Super Eagles Star Daniel Amokachi and former South Africa captain Neil Tovey.

A total of 30 teams will be playing a two-legged home and away play-offs on September 7-9 and October 12-14 to determine who goes into the 16-team finals draw on October 26

AFCON final qualifying draw:

Mali v Botswana Guinea v Niger

Zimbabwe v Angola Sudan v Ethiopia

Ghana v Malawi Libya v Algeria

Liberia v Nigeria Ivory Coast v Senegal

Zambia v Uganda DR Congo v Equatorial Guinea

Cape Verde v Cameroon Gabon v Togo

Mozambique v Morocco Central African Republic v Burkina Faso

Sierra Leone v Tunisia

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