Cape Town - Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic says it was Uganda's destiny to make their long-awaited return to the Africa Cup of Nations against Ghana as the teams prepare to meet on Tuesday.
The Cranes have not appeared at the tournament finals since losing 2-0 to hosts Ghana in the final in Accra in 1978, and after a 39-year absence the Black Stars will once again be their opponents in Gabon.
"I feel honoured, pleased and privileged to be here. We have worked very hard in Uganda to make this happen. Thirty-plus million people have dreamt to have us here," said the Serbian Sredojevic, better known by his nickname "Micho".
"So many things you can escape but destiny you cannot - the last game of Uganda was in the final of the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. Our first match back after 39 years is against Ghana so there is that symbolic aspect."
Uganda, who will also face Egypt and Mali in Group D, may not boast a record like that of Ghana at the Cup of Nations but they can draw confidence from their recent performances against Avram Grant's men.
The Cranes took four points off Ghana in their ultimately unsuccessful bid to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations and also held them to a 0-0 draw in Tamale in World Cup qualifying last October.
"Every match we go into with the intention of showing that we are close to them. It is not easy," said "Micho", in charge since 2013, ahead of their game in Port-Gentil.
"The law of averages tells you - three matches the last two years and what happened has happened, but history will not play tomorrow. Past sentiments we must put out.
"Uganda has no experience in final tournaments. Ghana has. We have watched 19 Cups of Nations since 1978 on television, now we are there.
"Coming back is not an easy step but I believe we have prepared very well. This is a measure of how far we have come. We want to build our football to reach among the top 10 in African football."
Uganda saw their star goalkeeper Denis Onyango come off in their 3-0 warm-up defeat to the Ivory Coast in the Middle East last week but the coach allayed any fears about the Mamelodi Sundowns man's fitness, describing it as a "precautionary move".