By Moses Wantimba
With colorful glamour,the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament kicked off in Egypt with the hosts claiming a marginal 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe at the Cairo Stadium.
And now group A will start to take shape as the Uganda Cranes take on neighbors DR Congo in what is expected to be a revitalizing clash.
At the back of shambolic showing at the 2017 AFCON in Gabon and an imposing qualification campaign,Uganda got a morale boost by edging twice African champions the Ivory Coast 1-0 in Abu Dhabi with Farouk Miya converting a 34th-minute penalty in their final test game as they wound up a 3 weeks training camp in UAE.
The DRC, meanwhile, had to settle for a draw against Kenya with West Ham United defender Arthur Masuaku snatching a late equaliser during a 1-1 stalemate.
Despite,DRC’s captain Youssouf Mulumbu believes they have the pedigree over The Cranes who return to the stage for the 7th time since 1962 with only 3 victories in 7 games against The Leopards. DRC have won 4 of the 7 including two comprehensive 4-0 score-lines.
“Provided we can fix a few things, there is no reason why this team cannot go all the way,” he said ahead of a Cairo clash with Uganda.
“We reached the semi-finals and the quarter-finals in the last two editions and I believe the team is better now under our great coach Florent (Ibenge).” Mulumbu noted
Albeit being known for being a very defensively organised side,led by skipper Dennis Onyango with 5 clean sheets in the previous 6 outings,The Cranes will have a mouthful to deal with as DRC bring out a massively talented attack frontline staring Cedric Bakambu,Tresor Mpotu,M’Poku and Yannick Bolassie.
Uganda will still look forward to a good turn up from forward Faruk Miya who scored The Cranes’ only goal at the previous AFCON and also leading the individual scoring charts with 3 goals during the qualifiers.
With The Pharaohs regarded as the outright favorites to lead the group,a tight contest is set to unfold between DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe for second place, and a guaranteed last-16 slot for the four best third placed teams.
In other games,Nigeria’s Super Eagles will take on CECAFA representatives and debutants Burundi while Guinea square with Madagascar in the last fixture of the day.