As the dust is finally beginning to settle on the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, attention will now slowly turn to the next incarnation in four years’ time. While there was euphoria for the eventual winners and heartbreak for those who fell at the final hurdles, some teams will just be glad of the chance to qualify for the world’s most prestigious tournament.
One of those is Uganda. After narrowly missing out on qualification for the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, followed by an encouraging but ultimately fruitless campaign to qualify for Qatar, the Cranes will be hoping that they can board the plane to North America in 2026. We take a look at their chances below.
Undoubtedly the biggest factor on Uganda’s side when it comes to qualifying for the tournament in the USA, Canada and Mexico is its updated format. While all previous competitions have featured a maximum of 32 teams, the 2026 edition will be the first to host 48 national sides. That means that instead of just five representatives from Africa, the continent will boast nine. Immediately, Uganda’s chances will enjoy a fillip, just by force of numbers.
Uganda have never qualified for a FIFA World Cup, having withdrawn from the qualifiers on two occasions and failed to make the grade on all others. This means that for those who visit sites like https://sportsbet.io/sports, the smart money may be on more obvious picks such as Cameroon, Egypt and Morocco to qualify from Africa. However, it also means that Uganda can enjoy underdog status and fly under the radar, giving them a better chance to spring a surprise on unsuspecting opponents.
Historically, the majority of players in the Ugandan national team have plied their trade on home soil. However, the most recently announced squad (which will contest the AFCON 2023 qualifiers across the course of the coming year) contained just 13 players playing in Uganda out of a total 33. That overseas majority, including players playing in the top leagues in countries as diverse as Scotland, Iceland, Egypt, Latvia and the USA, gives them invaluable experience of playing abroad.
In November, the Federation of Uganda’s Football Association (FUFA) announced a joint campaign with leading national beer manufacturer Nile Breweries to provide funding for the Ugandan team’s drive to reach North America in 2026. For every bottle of Nile beer bought in the country, the company has pledged to donate 50 shillings towards the cause. With a total overall target of more than 400 million shillings, it’s hoped that the money can go towards providing the players with the training, equipment and support they need to exceed expectations and reach a World Cup for the first time in history.
While Uganda have not yet achieved their goal of reaching the FIFA World Cup, the 48-team format of the 2026 edition, alongside encouraging developments at home, give them a better chance of doing so than ever before.