Alexandria, Egypt — Time always heals wounds, doesn't it? For players at the summit that time is not even there as they quickly have to move to the next.
Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango is in that calibre. Right after Tuesday's morale-sapping 2018 World Cup qualifying 1-0 defeat to Egypt, he is meant to move on.
His Mamelodi Sundowns face Morocco's Wydada Casablanca next week in the Caf Champions League quarterfinals.
However, the goalkeeper was still contemplating what could have been at Borg Al Arab stadium yesterday, as the team took a guided tour of the coastal town.
"We lost concentration in the first minutes as a team yet we knew it that they would attack us a lot at the start," Onyango said of Mohammed Salah's sixth minute goal.
Right back Nicholas Wadada, who made a timid start, gave away the ball in poor season. From that, Egypt went in-field then a delightful over-the-top pass released Liverpool's Salah.
Onyango saved from close range only for Salah to pounce on the rebound in what was coach Moses Basena's final game in charge of the interim period after replacing Micho Sredojevic.
That moment decided the game entirely as Egypt reclaimed top spot in group E with nine points, two more than Uganda while three-time World Cup finalists Ghana are third on five after thrashing Congo Brazzaville 5-1.
On the other hand, Onyango had a blinder of a game, keeping the team in the contest with a string of saves, though Cranes offered little to keep his opposite, Esam El Hadary busy.
"As captain and last line of defence, I had to make some saves. Sadly, I didn't hold on when they scored," the 2016 Caf African Player of the Year said.
Cranes can now attain a maximum of 13 points, Egypt 15 and Ghana 11 from the final. An 'unlikely' first World Cup appearance will come down to Congo or Ghana stopping Egypt to Uganda's benefit.
"I actually had hope that we could get a result here," Onyango said of the venue where Sundowns won the 2016 Caf Champions League, holding off Egypt's Zamalek.
"There is big job to do considering that Ghana won. We must work hard to get points off Ghana then see what happens thereafter. The next two games are finals," he added.
That final rallying is a message re-echoed at the Radisson Blu Hotel by striker Emmanuel Okwi, scorer in the 1-0 victory over Egypt in Kampala last week, a first in 52 years.
"You know it's not impossible in football for us to win and then Ghana or Congo stop Egypt. But, many think the Ghana game (next month at Namboole) is easy. It's not, we have to be aware of that," Okwi stated.
Cranes leave Alexandria today destined for Entebbe through Cairo, from where players will disperse.