Ten-man Uganda Cranes came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Cameroon in the opening game of the 2021 pre-CHAN tournament on Friday.
Banga Bienvenue put Cameroon in the lead when he headed in from a free-kick resulting from Ben Ocen in the 12th minute. Milton Karisa slotted home the equalizer with 20 minutes to play after collecting from Joachim Ojera.
The point is one that head coach Johnathan McKinstry and his technical team are pleased with especially coming against the CHAN hosts.
However, the North Irishman insists that his side is not in the mini-tournament for results.
“We said coming into this little tournament that it was not about results,” McKinstry said after the game.
“It is about taking on very good opposition-the host nation and some other top teams and really getting us ready for the main tournament.
“It is about really putting us on pressure and we were indeed put to test today.”
The Red card came early in the game, a situation that would prompt any side to sit deep and change tactics.
However, the Cranes surprised many including their opponents as they maintained their initial game-plan.
In doing so, they created several scoring-chances before finally earning their reward through Karisa’s leveler.
“I have to watch it again on video but I honestly don’t think it was a red card, I just don’t know but it amazed me,” McKinstry said about Ocen’s sending off.
“I said to the players at half time that we wanted to come here and prepare for tournament and what a great opportunity we have been given to play against the host nation-a man down for 85-90% of the game.
“When most teams have that situation, they get men behind the ball and play direct football. But for us, we encouraged our players to continue playing and be confident.
“For large portions of the game, I thought we were the team creating chances from open play and we couldn’t be more pleased with the players.”
Despite the praise for the courage and mentality that the players exhibited, McKinstry claims there is still room for improvement as Uganda attempts to make it out of the CHAN group stages for the first time in history.
“There is still stuff to improve on naturally but we play good football, know we have speed in the team both in the starting team and on the bench.
“It was all about us taking the game to Cameroon and I felt the equalizer was deserved and on another day, we might have come back and won it.
“It was great for the fitness of the player, was great for the development of the players and good for their confidence so we are really pleased.”
Uganda’s next game in the Pre-CHAN tournament will be against Zambia on Monday, January 04 before Niger three days later.
The tournament proper kicks off on January 16 with the Cranes in Group C alongside the defending champions Morocco, Togo and Rwanda.