BY HENRY MHARA IN CAIRO, EGYPT
Uganda captain Dennis Onyango has touted the Warriors as “one of the best quality sides in the tournament” ahead of the two teams’ crucial Group A clash of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) here tonight.
The Warriors face the Cranes in their second match at the Cairo International Stadium in a match that could seal the former’s Afcon fate.
Kick off is 7pm Zimbabwe time.
Zimbabwe lost to hosts Egypt in the tournament curtain raiser on Friday night, while Uganda were 2-0 winners over the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and will qualify to the next stage if they can notch up another win.
Zimbabwe will have to win this match to keep alive their hopes of making it to the knockout stages.
The Sunday Chidzambga-coached side might have lost their opener, but they won a lot of admirers with their display against the hosts.
The big Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper has played with and against most of the players in the Warriors squad at club level and he knows the sort of a challenge his team will be up against.
In an exclusive interview with NewsDaySport in Cairo ahead of the Warriors’ make-or-break match, Onyango predicted a tough match for his team.
“It will be a very tough challenge to play against Zimbabwe because they are a quality team. I cannot single out a player to say this is their best player. I can name the entire team and even their bench is very strong,” Onyango said.
“It was unfortunate they did not win against Egypt, but we all saw how good and competitive they were against the home side in front of that crowd. Most teams could have collapsed in that atmosphere, but they didn’t, which shows how good they are.”
“Personally, I think they have one of the best quality team in this tournament. We know the team we will face, but we will have to give them a fight at the end of the day and see how far we can go,” he added.
Onyango has played alongside Khama Billiat and Nyasha Mushekwi at Mamelodi Sundowns. He has also played against Knowledge Musona when the Warriors captain was still playing at Kaizer Chiefs and many other Zimbabwean players who currently play in the South African premier league.
“A lot of the players are my friends, the likes of Khama, Nyasha, Knowledge and their goalkeepers are all my friends. But when we are on the pitch, we will not be friends anymore. Everyone will be fighting for his nation and at the end of the day some will have to win and others will have to lose.”
He believes the knowledge he has on the Zimbabwean players will be critical in this match.
“Of course, I will have to help my team, I have spied on them and given my team all the information that I can and it’s all up to the players to react on what I gave them. But still, we will have to do our job well.”
He also lavished goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda with compliments following his brilliant performance against Egypt, which saw him make eight saves – an Afcon record for most saves made in a single match.
“I don’t want to make saves like what he did in that match. He was absolutely fantastic, but, for me, as long as I organise my team well, I don’t want to face any ball. I want my defence to do their job and as long as I don’t get shots on goal, I will be happy.”
Against the DRC, Uganda chose to sit back and made good use of set-pieces. “If you don’t have the same quality as your opponents you have to defend as a team. The DRC has a lot of quality so we had to defend deep and try to frustrate them as much as possible and through their mistakes, we scored. And that’s how it’s supposed to be, and we might do that again against Zimbabwe.”