The Crested Cranes, the national football women’s team opened the 2022 edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations on a disappointing note.
The Crested Cranes, making only their second appearance at the biennial tournament sought a decent start after 22 years away from the competition.
But they were made to leave the Prince Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex with defeat after a couple of costly errors on Sunday evening.
Uganda had comfortably managed to match their opponents Senegal from the get-go, but a careless tackle from Aisha Natongo inside the dreaded area changed proceedings. The result was a penalty that Ndeye Awa Dhiakhate slotted in with just five minutes to the end of the first half.
Hassifah Nassuna and Viola Nambi had been a creative force in the Ugandan team that last featured at this stage in 2000, and indeed turned a few heads, but their efforts were undone by poor finishing upfront.
Fauza Najjemba in particular should be beating herself up after Nambi sent her through on goal; the forward had options to pick up including picking up Shamirah Nalugya’s run but instead chose to go for goal from a very tight angle.
Murmurs back home had been why the coach, George Lutalo didn’t go for experience as he benched both Fazilah Ikwaput and Sandra Nabweteme; both stars of this team at the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, that they won a few weeks ago.
But while they were introduced, the retraction of Nassuna left many wondering as they felt the creativity of Nassuna needed back up from the duo and the team could have used the creativity with all of them on the pitch.
Lutalo, who decided to stick with the starting XI that beat Zambia 5-0 in the build-up game, had thought his decision to withdraw Nassuna for Phionah Nabbuma had yielded fruits as the latter almost immediately made her introduction count, but her long-range shot kissed the crossbar.
The second goal was another defensive mistake, with Yudaya Nakayenze, in her half, gifted Nguenar Ndiaye possession who found no trouble beating Uganda’s goalkeeper and skipper Ruth Aturo.
Ndiaye’s effort though instilled some hope in Ugandans as the assistant referee initially ruled it out for offside, but after VAR’s consultation, the goal was awarded.
The result means Uganda open their AWCON campaign in defeat. Their opening game in their first-ever AWCON tourney ended in a stalemate as they drew 2-2 against Zimbabwe.
The result also means Uganda are now bottom of Group A after a solitary game. They play hosts Morocco next on Tuesday before facing Burkina Faso on Friday in their last group game.