Uganda outclassed Angola 3-0 in wet Kampala on Saturday and World Cup qualifiers Algeria were held 1-1 by Tanzania as the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifying competition kicked off.
There was a Scottish flavour to the Ugandan triumph at Mandela Stadium as coach Bobby Williamson saw Hearts striker David Obua put the home team ahead before Andrew Mwesigwa and Geoffrey Sserunkuma struck after half-time.
Kenya, who impressed in warm-up matches by forcing a draw in Tanzania and winning convincingly in Ethiopia, are away to lowly Guinea Bissau later in the other Group J fixture.
Uganda are seeking a first appearance at the biennial African football showcase since finishing 1978 runners-up behind Ghana and deservedly led 1-0 at half-time after dominating the opening half.
Angola had several narrow escapes before beanpole striker Obua struck on 35 minutes with a perfectly timed dash into the penalty area to poke a Vincent Kayizzi cross wide of goalkeeper Lama.
Huge defender Mwesigwa added a second 13 minutes into the second half as he ran past several slow-reacting defenders, controlled the ball superbly on the slippery, muddy surface and fired it into the net.
Pre-match boasts from coach Herve Renard that Angola had “brilliant” footballers were ringing hollow and when they got a chance to pull one goal back soon after, goalkeeper Denis Onyanga came to the Cranes rescue with quick reflexes.
Livewire wide midfielder Kayizzi was tormenting the Angolans and created the third with a cross into the heart of the six-year box where a powerful Sserunkuma header flew into the roof of the net.
Algeria, shock qualifiers for the World Cup this year at the expense of seven-time African champions Egypt, were surprisingly held 1-1 by Tanzania on Friday in the first game of the weekend.
The traditional poor travellers from East Africa stunned the crowd in Blida south of Algiers by taking the lead on 32 minutes when Jerry Tegete slammed a free kick into the net.
Midfielder Adlane Guedioura levelled on the stroke of half-time and the North Africans dominated the second half only to be foiled by combative Tanzanian midfielders who kept scoring chances to a minimum.
Snatching an away point came as a surprise to new Taifa Stars coach Jan Poulsen from Denmark who feared the worst against the 2010 Nations Cup semi-finalists in their fortress.
“Football is not like a factory where you just walk in, start machines and work begins. You work with footballers and it takes time, it takes months, maybe half a year,” he warned.
Morocco, shock absentees from the 2010 Nations Cup who have hired Belgian coach Eric Gerets to rebuild the team around Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh, host Central African Republic in the second Group D fixture.
Zambia and Comoros Islands were forced to delay their Group C match in Lusaka at least 24 hours because the Eritrean referee and his assistants failed to arrive.
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea will stage the 2012 Nations Cup — the first to officially be co-hosted — and the 11 group winners, the Group K runners-up and the best two second-placed teams from the other mini-leagues join them.
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