Uganda Hippos Need a Win against Nigeria To Qualify for World Cup

The Uganda National Under-20 football team, the Hippos have an uphill task to defeat their tough opponents Nigeria in the quarter-final of the ongoing 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, if they are to qualify for their maiden FIFA under-20 World cup.  

The 2023 AFCON U-20 serves as a qualifier for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 with the best four teams qualifying for the tournament set to take place in Indonesia. Uganda’s fixture with Nigeria was decided by a toss of a coin after the Hippos finished the group games with five points from three games, the same number of points and goals secured by Congo Brazzaville.   

Uganda was picked first from the pot and won the toss to finish top to set their fixture with Nigeria in the Quarterfinals slated for Thursday, March 2nd, 2023. Nigeria finished second in group A with six points behind Senegal in one of the highest-rated groups that had hosts Egypt and Mozambique.

Nigeria, which lost its opening game to Senegal redeemed itself with a win over Egypt and Mozambique. Also, throughout their group stage matches, the Nigerians displayed a striking and dynamic performance. Most importantly their attacking players, Ayuba Abubakar and Ibrahima Muhammed were particularly dominant, utilizing their pace to intimidate defenders and pose a significant threat to the Ugandan team.  

Furthermore, the Nigerians possess an impressive track record, having clinched the title seven times in a tournament where Uganda is only participating for the second time which also puts the Hippos in a trickier situation.  

However, this does not intimidate the Hippo’s Head Coach, Jackson Mayanja, who exuded courage and confidence following their goalless draw with South Sudan. Mayanja maintains his initial goal of securing a spot in the World Cup and is prepared to face any opponent that crosses their path.    

On the other hand; Uganda Hippos also carries a pedigree in this edition of the tournament having won silver in the last edition held in Mauritania and qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2021, unfortunately, FIFA canceled the World Cup tournament that was slated for May 20 to June 12th, 20021 due to COVID-19.     

In their last group game against South Sudan, where they failed to score a single goal Mayanja commended his team’s performance, stating that it was praiseworthy, especially considering that he rested several key players who had already qualified for the quarter-finals.   

“The performance was not bad Half of the team was not around, and even the players who came in have not played in the last two games,” Mayanja said.  As Uganda approaches the much-anticipated match against Nigeria, despite the unfavorable odds, Coach Mayanja remains steadfast in his commitment to the tic-tac style of play.   

He has repeatedly emphasized that no game shall deter him from his preferred style of play. However, it is imperative to note that Uganda has conceded three goals in its last three games. Hence, while the coach holds firm to his playing style, it is crucial to address the team’s defensive issues before they face off against Nigeria.  

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