Total U20 AFCON 2023

Quarterfinals, Thursday, March 2

Uganda vs Nigeria, 8pm EAT

As Uganda brace for an almighty quarter-final clash against record seven-time AFCON U20 champions, Nigeria, on Thursday, coach Jackson Mayanja’s boys know they will have to play their best game ever to hit their target.

Mayanja has been consistent in emphasizing that anything but a FIFA U20 World Cup 2023 slot will be a disappointing campaign.

Now, Nigeria stand in the way of Uganda’s foot at the World Cup to be held in Indonesia in May through June, and the Hippos have their work cut out.

The Ugandans will have to defend better than they did in the first two group games where they conceded three times against Central African Republic and Congo.

There are, however, positives to build on in attack, where they have scored four times through John Paul Dembe, skipper Isma mugulusi, Titus Ssematimba and Saidi Mayanja.

And to help further the cause upfront is exciting youngster Travis Mutyaba, who plays his football with StarTimes Uganda Premier League side, SC Villa.

Uganda will especially need 17-year-old Mutyaba’s promise to finally come through because in Nigeria they face a team that has conceded just once.

Nigeria won two of their group matches, beating Mozambique and hosts Egypt 2-0 and 1-0 respectively. They lost their opening match 1-0 to Senegal, who topped their group.

Mutyaba has shown glimpses of his eye-catching abilities, especially in the goalless draw with South Sudan but nothing has really come close to what his talent promises.

The youngster’s MVP performances with the national U15s and U17s at the respective regional Cecafa tournaments and that individual effort goal against Tanzania in CHAN qualification is what Ugandans are still waiting for.

Fortunately, Mutyaba is aware and promises to keep pressing on. “My goal for the AFCON tournament is to take my motherland to the World Cup and to be the best player in the tournament,” Mutyaba said ahead of the tournament.

Mutyaba’s ability to beat his men, release players and shoot could prove a potent weapon for coach Mayanja and Uganda. He will definitely be called upon at some point by Mayanja if he does not start on Thursday.

Uganda’s U20 side, the Hippos, did qualify for the World Cup in 2021 but were unfortunate the tournament did not happen because of Covid. 

Then coached by KCCA coach Morley Byekwaso, the Hippos not only hit the semifinal target to book a slot at the World Cup, they went all the way to the final where they lost 2-0 to Ghana. 


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