CAIRO – Uganda ended a 41-year wait for an Africa Cup of Nations victory when they upset the Democratic Republic of Congo 2-0 in a Group A match in Cairo on Saturday.
The Cranes last won at the showcase of African football in March 1978, defeating Nigeria in a semi-final before losing the title decider to hosts Ghana.
Uganda did not qualify again for the Cup of Nations until two years ago in Gabon when the best they managed in three group matches was a draw.
Uganda exposed poor defending by DR Congo at the Cairo International Stadium to score in each half through Patrick Kaddu and Emmanuel Okwi.
Winning by two goals lifted Uganda to the top of the table, ahead of host nation Egypt on goal difference.
The scene inside the stadium was very different from the previous night when a 70,000 crowd watched Egypt beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in the tournament opener.
With the mid-afternoon temperature 36 degrees celsius, there were just a few thousand spectators to witness the second match in the section.
Ahead of the tournament, most pundits tipped record seven-time champions Egypt to top the standings, leaving DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe in an intriguing scrap for second place.
The six group winners and runners-up are guaranteed round-of-16 places and will be joined by the best four six third-place sides in a tournament expanded to 24 teams from 16 this year.
Uganda did not resemble a team 31 places below DR Congo in the world rankings as they bossed the early exchanges and deservedly went ahead on 14 minutes.
As a corner was floated toward the goalmouth, Kaddu sprinted away from a marker and his glancing near-post header flew past goalkeeper Ley Matampi.
It proved the only goal of an opening half in which Uganda were hungrier to win and retain possession than two-time champions DR Congo.
The Congolese regularly struggled to deal with aerial threats during the opening 45 minutes and this weakness was punished again as Uganda scored a second goal on 48 minutes.
A free-kick was directed toward a crowd of players just inside the box and Okwi, facing away from the goal, flicked the ball into the corner of the net.
Uganda could have scored again just before the hour mark as a medium-range Farouk Miya free-kick dipped belatedly and Matampi did well to flick the ball over the bar.
DR Congo coach Florent Ibenge sensed changes were necessary to try and turn the tide and Jonathan Bolingi and Jacques Maghoma were introduced.
Bolingi justified his introduction by heading on to the top of the crossbar and over with 20 minutes left, the closest the Congolese came to a goal.AFP