Mohamed Salah and Egypt hold no fear for Sebastien Desabre's Uganda

Sebastien Desabre of Uganda EPA/ABDELHAK SENNA

Uganda coach Sebastien Desabre is quietly confident that the Cranes may have an edge after being drawn against hosts Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations, and the Frenchman is already putting together a plan to neutralise the Pharaohs' star man Mohamed Salah.

The East Africans were handed a particularly tough first-round assignment after being pitted alongside Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe in Group A of the 2019 Afcon, which kicks off in Cairo on June 21.

However, Uganda have plenty of fresh experience of playing against Salah and co., and Desabre believes these recent matches should prepare them well for the June 30 rematch in their third group game.

"Senegal, Nigeria and Morocco are really the favourites, but Egypt are, too, because they're hosting the tournament," Desabre told ESPN about the leading Afcon contenders.

"These four teams should go far.

"We're in Egypt's group, and they're a team we know well. Personally, I know them very well as I worked in Egypt [five months with club side Ismaily SC], and we've played against them several times.

"When we play against Egypt, the boys know that it's possible [to get a result]."

The two sides were pitted together in the group stage of the 2017 Afcon, where Egypt were ultimately pipped by Cameroon in the final, and met home and away during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

"[We've] beaten them in World Cup qualification [a 1-0 victory in Kampala in August 2017], at the last Afcon they only scored in the 89th minute.

"It's very difficult, and they're favourites, but it's not too bad to play against them either.

"Egypt are strong individually, and maybe as a group they're a little less strong than in previous years, but they'll be pushed by their supporters.

"We know, at home, how important it is to have fans behind you."

There could be no talk of Egypt's strong individual qualities without reference to Salah, who scored his 23rd competitive club goal of the season, and his 67th since signing for Liverpool, when he netted in the Reds' 4-1 UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg victory over FC Porto on Wednesday.

Salah has regained goal-scoring form after an eight-match goalless run, and he struck a sublime 25-yard effort on Sunday as Liverpool secured a potentially decisive 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the Premier League title race.

"Of course I saw [Salah's goal]," Desabre said, with a knowing smile, when asked how the Cranes might limit the Egyptian star's influence.

"Of course I did.

"We must put in place a unified approach to try to at least reduce his time with the ball.

"Talent remains talent, but instead of him touching the ball, we must put something in place to ensure that he sees less of it.

"We know that players [like Salah] are talented, and that they can make the difference at any moment. That's just how it is.

"Egypt are lucky to have this kind of player, the type that we don't have, but we have a collective, and we'll put in place a style to reduce Salah's danger.

"We have no stars in our team, but our strength is our togetherness, and our aggression on the field. We have the capacity to have a team which is very solid, with great cohesion, and I know that, come the Afcon, my players will be at 150 percent.

"We'll be hard to play against, even if we've fallen into a group where we're not the most talented in terms of individuals; in terms of the collective, we know how to respond."

While Desabre is realistic about the challenge facing Uganda, and the prospect of attempting to neutralise Salah, he's confident that the Cranes are more than capable of being one of the tournament's surprise packages.

"At the Afcon, it isn't always the team we're expecting who wins it," he said.

"Last time we saw it with Cameroon, who perhaps weren't expected to win it at the time, but they did.

"We're very motivated by the idea of playing [at the tournament]. We'll play three games in 10 days, in 11 days, and they're three games of 90 minutes.

"We're professional, we'll be prepared, and we'll be ready.

"We've already shown that we're ready to win these matches, and to trouble the biggest teams."

Uganda kick off their Group A campaign against the DRC at Cairo International Stadium on June 22, before playing Zimbabwe at the same venue four days later.

They conclude their campaign against the Pharaohs in the capital on June 30, when they'll be hoping to progress to the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time since 1978, when they were pipped in the final by hosts Ghana.