Emmanuel Okwi struck the only goal of the match as Uganda stunned Egypt in Caf’s World Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday, while Guinea’s Alkhaly Bangoura struck a stoppage-time winner as the Syli Nationale halted a remarkable Libyan comeback in Conakry.
While the rest of the footballing world were turning their attentions to transfer deadline day on Thursday, Ugandan fans at the Mandela National Stadium in Namboole were preparing to see how their side would fare without coach Milutin Sredojevic following his exit for Orlando Pirates.
Cranes supporters ought to be delighted with what they saw, as the Cranes—demonstrating the resiliency and self-sacrifice that had been hallmarks of Micho’s reign, stunned Egypt to take top spot in Group E.
Simba SC forward Emmanuel Okwi scored the only goal of the game in the 51st minute, darting away from veteran Pharaohs left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafy to bury past Essam El-Hadary in eye-catching, to set Uganda on their way to a historic triumph.
The East Africans—vying to become the first team from the region to reach the World Cup—owed a lot to the poor turf in Namboole, which largely stymied the Egyptians’ attacking moves and limited their fluidity in the heart of the park.
However, they will also turn to an inspirational performance by captain and Mamelodi Sundowns stopper Denis Onyango, who denied Mohamed Salah in the 62nd minute when the Liverpool frontman’s header appeared destined for the net.
In contrast to his opposite number, El-Hadary endued an afternoon to forget, pulling off a decent block to deny Farouk Miya but suffering for much of the contest after picking up a knee injury midway through the first half.
The win takes Uganda up to top spot in Group E on seven points after three matches, one ahead of the Pharaohs on six.
Ghana (one point) and Congo-Brazzaville (zero points) meet in Kumasi on Friday, where the Black Stars can rightly be buoyed by Uganda’s shock success.
In Conakry in the day’s late kick off, there was even more drama, where a Naby Keita masterclass nearly ended in bitter disappointment for Guinea.
With the future Liverpool midfielder outstanding, Lappe Bangoura’s side were quick out of the blocks, and remarkably struck the woodwork three times inside the opening 20 minutes as Libya were overwhelmed.
Keita, who was denied by the woodwork early on after a fine free kick, opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a magnificent effort as he dribbled through the heart of the park, evaded several challenges, and finished past Muhammad Nashnoush.
The RasenballSport man missed a penalty in the second half as Guinea failed to make it 3-0 following Aboubacar Demba Camara’s 23rd-minute strike, and were almost made to regret their profligacy.
In a remarkable turnaround, the previously besieged Libya netted twice in the last four minutes of regular time—through Motasem Sabbou and Akram Zuway—and looked set to nab an away point that had appeared firmly beyond them.
However, the impressive Bangoura finished from point-bank range in stoppage time—following an excellent cross by Keita—as Guinea escaped with all three points.
It remains to be seen whether the win can breathe life into the West Africans’ World Cup hopes, with Bangoura’s team having lost both of their opening Group A matches.
They move up to three points—third in Group A—ahead of pointless Libya but three behind the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tunisia ahead of their meeting in Rades on Friday.