Cairo — Uganda will now face either Senegal or Kenya in the last 16 of this maiden 24-team Nations Cup tournament after finishing second in a group that included hosts Egypt, DRC and Zimbabwe last night.
The Cranes fell to Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Elmohamady goals in the 2-0 defeat to Egypt at Cairo International Stadium but coach Sebastien Desabre's boys had done enough in their first two matches to give themselves a chance.
Uganda's last 16 automatic slot was confirmed by DRC beating Zimbabwe by the same scoreline at 30 June Stadium, leaving Egypt top of Group A with nine points and Cranes second on four. DRC have three and Zimbabwe one.
The magnificent Cairo had opened mid-morning for the 10pm match, and by two hours to kickoff the 75,000-seater stadium had filled, leaving only enough space for speed and sound.
The atmosphere was gripping, the sight of waving Egyptian flags and the noise from underneath them both beautiful and scary.
It went fever pitch when the home side jogged to the pitch for warm-up. It blew off the roof when the stadium announcer introduced shirt number 10, Mohamed Salah!
There was no way Egypt were going to lose this one. But when Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye kicked it off, the Cranes showed no nerves.
Cranes coach Desabre made three changes from the team that started against Zimbabwe; Nicholas Wadada, Timothy Awany and Allan Kyambadde replacing Bevis Mugabi, Ronald Mukiibi and Patrick Kaddu.
Inside the first 30 minutes Miya, Kyambadde, Emmanuel Okwi and Abdu Lumala had caused Egypt enough trouble at the back.
But it was the more experienced Pharaohs who instead went ahead. Salah received the ball on the 18-yard area, inviting Hassan Wasswa into a challenge and won a free kick.
The Liverpool man got up and sent in the ball over a static Cranes wall and beyond Denis Onyango in Uganda's goal for a 35th minute lead and Salah's second of the tournament.
Uganda searched for the equaliser, Lumala driving in from the right but the pacey winger choosing to shoot when passing to a free Miya was a better option.
Kyambadde also forced Mohamed Elshenawy into a top save with a dipping drive outside the orbidden area.
The hosts responded through Mohamed Elneny breaking Cranes attack and releasing Ayman Elsayed down the left, the full back's cross thumped in by oncoming Elmohamady for a 2-0 half time lead.
Onyango had to be at his best after recess, rushing out to thwart Salah one-on-one and it had to take an Egyptian leg to keep out Miya's volley from close range.
Egypt then survived an own goal after Khalid Aucho's shot off a Miya free kick caused pandemonium in their box. But the Pharaohs held on for maximum points.
The encouraging news for Uganda is they have at least one more game to correct their mistakes.
The worrying news is that they face an anxious wait to know the extent of injuries to Onyango and Aucho.
Onyango was carried off the pitch and into the medical room on 71 minutes after he went down complaining on an unconfirmed discomfort.
Aucho also trudged off with a knock. Robert Odongkara replaced Onyango and Tadeo Lwanga Aucho.
Uganda's knockout match against Senegal or Kenya is on Friday at Cairo International Stadium.
Group A standings
Team P W D L GF GA Pts
Egypt (H) 3 3 0 0 5 0 9
Uganda 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
DR Congo 3 1 0 2 4 4 3
Zimbabwe 3 0 1 2 1 4 1
Group A results
Uganda 2-0 DRC
Egypt 1-0 Zimbabwe
Uganda 1-1 Zimbabwe
Egypt 2-0 DRC
DRC 4-0 Zimbabwe
Egypt 2-0 Uganda
Group A road ahead
July 5, Cairo International Stadium
Uganda vs Runner-up Group C (Senegal or Kenya)
July 7 - Alexandria
Winner Group B vs 3rd Group A/C/D
July 7 - Cairo, 30 June Stadium
Algeria vs 3rd Group A/B/F
July 6 - Cairo (International)
Egypt vs 3rd Group C/D/E