Uganda: No Minnows in AFCON

Uganda Cranes coach Sébastien Desabre.

When a decision was made to swell participating countries at African football's showpiece tournament from 16 to 24, positive reviews were unsurprisingly sparse.

In fact, the vast majority of observers strongly believed this was the kind of development that needed close and sceptical examination.

Apocalyptic forecasts boldly warned of the gulf in class between sides showing itself true in goal gluts. This, the starkly grim predictions added, would lose African football admirers it badly needs.

No one wants to be witness to blowout scores let alone teams in the grip of negative tactics. And thankfully the first week at Egypt 2019 has spared us such dim showing.

Unfazed minnows

This has owed more to the audacity of the so-called minnows than the stumbles of the powerhouses. An unguarded ease about the likes of Madagascar, Burundi and Namibia has suggested competitors in every way content to be home. Indeed the searing tactical clarity of unknown quantities at Egypt 2019 has allowed them to be mildly entertaining.

While David versus Goliath conquests have been a tough needle to thread, it's been refreshing to see unheralded teams obdurately refuse to be knocked sideways. Well, save for Mauritania who had waves of crisis crest over them during a heavy-duty defeat at the hands of Mali.

Kenya and Tanzania were hardly bulwarks against one-way traffic during their identical 2-0 defeats against Algeria and Senegal respectively, but they did well to keep the score a little respectable.

On a lighter -- if no less tactically devastating -- note, the two East African nations played out an absorbing five-goal thriller on Thursday where the semblance of structure nonexistent during their first round matches finally blipped on the radar.

A few of your columnist's friends noted, perhaps with a tinge of derision, that this was a clash of equals.

That it felt if not like the proverbial one-eyed person trying to best a blind counterpart; then much like two bald-headed men jostling for a comb. That notwithstanding, one of the enduring storylines in the group stage has been small teams standing to their illustrious opponents.

We saw that when Uganda cut a star-studded Democratic Republic of Congo outfit to ribbons.

Leopards fans went into the clash safe in the conviction that they couldn't accept footballing parity with the Cranes. A 2-0 defeat, however, left them eating humble pie.

So what could be the reason behind all this? The quick answer is that the beautiful game is pivoting away from individuality to the collective. But above all, the game has in many respects been standardised.

Teams prepare for and regroup from bruising contests in pretty similar manners.

This usually translates into results of fine margins, and we have gotten to witness this at Egypt 2019.

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