Can Uganda Cranes upset the odds and qualify for the AFCON 2013 at the expense of Zambia?

No team has left the 'fortress' that is the Nakivubo Stadium in Kampala with three points from a competitive fixture in the last eight years

Depending on whoever you to listen to, Ugandan football is either on the brink of greatness, or another tale of 'so near yet so far' is in the offing.

This is why.

Their is a chance, a formidable one, that the country's national soccer team, The Cranes will secure a slot at the premier African football showpiece set for South Africa early next year.

To achieve this, the Uganda Cranes will have to defeat current African champions Zambia, by two clear goals in the return leg match of the final round of qualifiers set for Kampala mid next month.

Therein lies the quagmire.

It’s been three decades and counting, since 'Team Uganda' last graced the ultimate football scene on the continent. Attempts at a comeback have consistently been cut short by mainly a mixture of hard luck, poor display and lack of commitment/indiscipline amongst senior players.

The most recent case in point is worth mention.

The Cranes led from the onset during the 2012 African Nations Cup Qualifiers, only to be tipped on the tape by Southern African side Angola in a group that also consisted of neighbors Kenya and Guinea Bissau.

In particular, the final match of the qualifiers against Kenya was vital. The Cranes needed three points to secure qualification, but suffered stage fright yet again, to settle for a goalless draw, after missing several clear cut goal scoring opportunities.

Needless to point out, Zambia are a more refined opposition.

Uganda head into the return leg in Kampala against the Central African side with a solitary goal deficit to overcome. A quick survey through the social sites indicates that not many fanatics have a clue of what to expect.

But there is hope.

No team (including Zambia) has left the 'fortress' that is the Nakivubo stadium in Kampala with three points from a competitive fixture in the last eight years. Mark you, amidst the visitors have been continental heavy weights including Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Ghana.

Cranes coach Bobby Williamson, who has been credited with the recent improved performance from the team, remains cautious heading into the contest.

“We have got hope though it won’t be easy in Kampala. Zambia is a well organised side with a fantastic coach and good players. It’s never an easy task against the champions of Africa but the most important thing is that we are still in the tie.”

His Zambian counterpart, Herve Renard expresses confidence, amidst caution, that the glass is half full, and not half empty.

“I believe we understand Uganda's system of play, they are a disciplined outfit who defend well and wait for their chance. We will prepare well for the return clash.”

The availability of attacking duo Geoffrey Massa and Brian Omony, who missed the first leg through injury could tilt the tide in favor of the hosts.

Ethiopia and Sudan will meet in another eye catching qualifier, which implies that an Eastern African Nation is guaranteed a slot at the 2013 African Nations Cup.

However, it is the result in the match pitting Zambia against Uganda that will not only underline how far East African football has progressed in recent times, but also determine whether Ugandan football is ready for the breakthrough to the African elite.