23 January 2017

Uganda: Argentine Soccer Trainer Cuper Credits Cranes

Photo: CAF
Uganda Cranes in action versus the Black Stars of Ghana.

Port-Gentil — Argentine Hector Cuper is one of the best teachers of classic counter-attacking football.

That brand of football was well demonstrated during the Egypt coach's reign at Spanish club Valencia from 1999 to 2001.

He borrowed from the same script on Saturday night after being restricted by a spirited Uganda Cranes for 88 minutes at Gabon's Port city of Gentil.

A back and forth game - where absentees from the Cup of Nations for 39 years, Uganda, made a decent account of themselves against seven-time champions Egypt - saw the Pharaohs strike where it hurt and mattered most.

The Cranes were retreating from one of their promising surges forward when the Egyptians switched on their counter down the left.

The move ended at Mohamed Salah's feet inside the penalty area as Cranes players froze, the Roma forward rolling it on for Abdullah El-Said to rocket home past Denis Onyango at the death for a 1-0 win.

Agony for Uganda, who were losing their second successive match after Ghana last Tuesday, and joy - if not relief - for Egypt, who were recording their first win in two games."I respect Uganda and commend them for their performance today," said Cuper, 61, at a post match press conference, "We had a difficult game against a very tough opponent."

Painful lesson

The narrow defeat for the 1978 losing finalists will have taught them a painful lesson in maximum concentration at this level.

The Cranes put in a decent shift that won Uganda some hearts here. Sadly, the hearts could turn into points; the reason the Cranes became the first team to exit the tournament.

Victory for Egypt, their first in two matches, improved their chances to progress to the last eight. They are on four points, two behind their Wednesday opponents and Group D leaders Ghana

Cuper, however, knows progression is far from assured. "I think all the groups are complicated not only ours," admitted Cuper.

"Our qualification is not guaranteed yet, so we have to fight till the end. At the Africa Cup of Nations every match is difficult.

"I wished to have a bigger scoreline and better performance but I thank my players who did all their best in tough circumstances."

Cuper's counterpart, Micho Sredojevic, was pleased with player's effort. "It was a moment of experience that made the difference," said the 47-year-old Serbian.

"I want to thank my players who gave their best and made their people proud. We came here to play three finals, we lost to Ghana by a penalty, lost to Egypt in the last minute and our ambition is to win against Mali and return home with pride."

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