Michael Azira may be wondering what’s hit him all of a sudden after being left in the international wilderness by Uganda for many years.
He’s started all four matches under coach, the Frenchman, Sebastien Desabre, at these championships, as Uganda advanced to the Round of 16.
Now this evening (local time) after facing Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah just five days ago, he comes up against another of the Merseyside club’s Champions League winning stars in Sadio Mane, as The Cranes joust with Senegal for a quarter-final spot. The winners will play Benin, shock victors over Morocco earlier in the day.
The Senegalese also have Serie A and Premier League stars on board such as Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Cheik Kouyate (Crystal Palace) and Idrissa Gueye (Everton), and are expected to advance over Uganda, a 15/2 shot to win the game in 90 mins.
Mane is a man on a mission, having earlier declared it his ‘absolute dream’ to win AFCON with Senegal. It would be his country’s first-ever triumph, after going close in 2002 when they were runners-up.
Before the start of the month-long tournament in Egypt, Mane told France Football magazine that he would trade his Champions League success to win the Africa Cup of Nations.
”I will try to score more goals and help my team-mates score so that we can finally win this cup,” added Mane, who could play against Liverpool team-mate Salah if Senegal and Egypt reach the final on 19 July.
”This is my absolute dream [to help Senegal win]. I am here for this.”
Azira’s Uganda finished runners-up to hosts Egypt in the group stage but their preparations for the Senegal match have been overshadowed by a pay dispute. Their players boycotted training on Tuesday.
But we’ve seen African nations shrug off such issues in the past to come up with inspired performances, so who knows what the reaction will be.
The last three games between the teams have resulted in two stalemates and a solitary win for Senegal, in a World Cup qualifier in Marrakech in 2013. On that occasion the only goal arrived in the 84th minute, and was scored by Sadio Mane. Ominous?
Where to watch -
1500 - Uganda v Senegal - AFCON Round of 16 - beIN Sports Canada, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada