East Africans Uganda will take on Mozambique in their opening game of the Total U-20 Africa Cup of Nations at the Olympic Stadium on Nouakchott on Monday afternoon. This will be the first time ever that the two countries will be playing at the tournament.
Uganda, the CECAFA region Under-20 champions are charged to ensure they perform well at the continental stage after their solid display at the qualification tournament held in Tanzania in December.
Uganda’s Hippos won the tournament after beating the hosts 4-1 in the final and they will look to build on with that same line of confidence when they take to the pitch in Mauritania.
On the road to booking a ticket to the final tournament, they finished top of Group B after demolishing Burundi 6-1 and drawing 0-0 with South Sudan. In the semi-finals, they were 3-1 winners over Kenya before trouncing Tanzania 4-1 in the final.
They will peg their hopes on the scoring prowess of striker Ivan Bogere who scored five goals during the qualifiers in Tanzania. Bogere has been in sensational form for not only the national team but former club Proline as well.
He scored five goals in four matches during their Total CAF Confederation Cup campaign in 2020 and in the previous year, 2019, finished as the top scorer with 15 goals as Proline earned promotion to the Premier League.
The team will also have seven players who featured at the 2019 Under-17 Cup of Nations in Tanzania, including skipper Gavin Kizito, who also captained the Under-17 team in Tanzania.
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Coach Morley Byekwaso will hope the smooth transition of players from Under-17 to the Under-20 will be a perfect ingredient for victory over Mozambique in their opening match.
In preparation for the tournament, Uganda had a training camp in Tanzania where they played two friendly matches against the hosts, winning 1-0 and losing the second 5-3.
The Mozambicans on the other hand are also looking to make an impression at the Continental stage, having come through as Champions of the COSAFA Zone qualifiers.
The Mambinhas beat Namibia 1-0 in the final, having previously beaten a tough Zambia side 5-4 on post-match penalties to book a slot in the final tournament. They had finished top of Group A with seven points having beaten Lesotho and Zimbabwe before drawing with hosts South Africa.
Coach Dario Monteiro knows it will not be an easy outing in the group, but will rely on the fighting spirit of his charges to push on for a place into the knockout stages.
Prior to travelling to Nouakchott, the team had a 10-day training camp in the Mozambican city of Nampula to help them prepare for the tournament.
They had several friendly matches, drawing 1-1 with Premier League outfit Costa da Sol, having previously beaten Matchedje de Maputo 2-1 and lost via the same margin against União Desportiva do Songo and Black Bulls.
They had also lost 3-1 to the Nampula provincial team.