Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic hinted on Sunday that he might quit the team he has taken to their first Cup of Nations in 39 years. His players conceded a goal in the dying seconds to lose 1-0 against Egypt on Saturday night in Port-Gentil.
A defeat at the hands of Ghana by the similar scoreline four days earlier means Uganda are the first side to be eliminated from the 2017 tournament.
Sredojevic, 47, took charge of Uganda in May 2013 shortly after 17 months as coach of Rwanda.
“I have reached a point where I have taken on a project and I’ve reached the Cup of Nations. Now I need a bit of breathing space,” Sredojevic told RFI.
“We have a last match against Mali and we want to keep our level. After that I shall see whether I will keep the project going or whether I – like in a relay – give it to someone else who can continue.
“The important thing is that we have laid a very strong foundation and in years to come people will benefit.”
Before taking up the post with Rwanda, Sredojevic coached club sides in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Africa. The 2017 Cup of Nations was his first senior major international tournament as a coach.
“We, the players and the technical team, wanted to measure ourselves, judge ourselves, develop ourselves. I feel we have reached a level but it is still very far from where we want to take Ugandan football,” he said. “Consistency is a requirement in the modern game. After 39 years we’ve qualified for our first Cup of Nations.
“Yes, that is good but that does not mean anything if you don’t do it again and again.”
For the 2019 competition in Cameroon, Uganda have been drawn in the same qualifying group as Cape Verde, Lesotho and Tanzania. They lie second behind Egypt but ahead of Ghana after two of the six games in the qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Those sides, led by Hector Cuper and Avram Grant respectively, proved to be Uganda’s undoing in a tournament.
“Egypt and Ghana have experience of the big competition,” Sredojevic added. “They have many players at big clubs. This is exactly what gave them edge in comparison with us. However we are very happy that we are so close. Because being close is a proof that we are capable and this injects confidence and that injects motivation. This is how we are looking forward.”
Following the 1-0 victory, Egypt rose to second in Group D with four points. They next play leaders Ghana. If Egypt overcome the Black Stars, they will advance to the last eight as pool winners. They will come second with a draw.
“For me it was an honour, a privilege and a pleasure to compete against head coaches such as Hector Cuper and Avram Grant,” added Sredojevic. “It was not easy to compete with them. It was like playing chess – answering one tactic with another.
“For me it has been a learning curve and I am looking forward to being much better. This is an injection of motivation that if I have one team without so-called big players and I‘ve managed to bring them to the same level and sometimes above players under Cuper and Grant, you can imagine what I’m capable of doing one day when big things come.”