January 18, 2017 / 12:27 PM / 7 months ago

Naive Uganda hailed for mental strength

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Uganda were hailed for their mental strength on their African Nations Cup return after a 39-year absence but criticised for naivety as they went 1-0 down to Ghana in their opening game.

Coach Milutin Sredojevic, who engineered a return to the finals line-up for the first time since 1978, said Uganda suffered from stage fright in the first half of their opening Group D match on Tuesday but believed the team could still advance against expectation.

Ghana won with a first half penalty, converted by Andre Ayew, after defender Isaac Isinde lost possession in his own penalty box and tugged back on the shoulder of Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan, who had stripped him of the ball.

“We paid for one mistake which is hard to explain,” said the Serbian-born coach. “We saw there the experience of a great player like Asamoah Gyan. “This level of competition does not permit silly mistakes.”

But the coach hailed his players’ second half exertions when Uganda threw caution to the wind and attacked their much vaunted opponents.

“We showed we are fit, we just lack a bit at the technical and tactical level. We came here to show that we did not qualify by accident and no matter that we now have to face Egypt and Mali, we will give 200 percent to advance,” he promised.

In their last African Nations Cup appearance, Uganda lost to Ghana in the 1978 final.

Their next Group A game is in Port Gentil on Saturday against Egypt.

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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