Stars promise to spoil the party for Uganda Cranes in World Cup qualifier

Thursday, November 11th, 2021 00:00 | By
Eric Johana Omondi in Harambee Stars camp. PHOTO/Rodger Ndegwa
Eric Johana Omondi in Harambee Stars camp. PHOTO/Rodger Ndegwa

Vincent Voiyo

National Football team Harambee Stars will be playing for mere pride against their perennial rivals Uganda in matchday five of the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the St Mary’s Kitende Stadium in Kampala today.

This will be the 70th meeting between the two East African soccer powerhouses whose rivalry dates back to the Gossage Cup (Now the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup) in the late ’60s.

Uganda has reigned supreme in the previous 79 showdowns having won 32 with Kenya only winning 22 matches. 

A total of 24 matches have ended in draws, the latest of which was in Nairobi in early September 2021.

Kenya has yet to register a win in this campaign, having lost both home and away games against group favorites Mali coupled with two draws against Cranes in Nairobi and Rwanda in Kigali.

This is a match that will definitely shape the conversation around Football Kenya Federation’s future engagements with head coach Engin Firat who was drafted in the middle of the qualifiers to spearhead Kenya’s search for a maiden FIFA World Cup participation.  

With Harambee Stars already out of the equation for the Qatar journey, the Turkish tactician will be prowling for his first win in three games to prove his coaching credentials.

Despite the game being a dead rubber for Kenya, Firat has promised to put a good show and has said he has seen immense improvement in the team during their latest fixture against Mali at Nyayo Stadium last month.

“There was a great improvement in the reverse fixture against Mali. My boys displayed great football particularly in the first half although I must concede that there were frailties upfront which I have since rectified,’’ said Firat in a pre0matcfh presser. 

He went on to reiterate: “We were not able to convert our goal scoring chances but from what I have seen in training, goals should come fast and furious not only in the game against Uganda but the one against Rwanda as well.” 

‘Migingo Derby’

Team skipper Michael Olunga who has been inspirational for Qatari club Al Duhail has warned Uganda to expect a torrid time in the ‘Migingo Derby’

“It will be another East African derby and I cannot wait to be part of it. As a team, we are prepared to play according to our plan and strategy. We don’t care much about the opponent. This kind of match requires good mental preparedness so as to get wins for pride and positive results for the team,” Olunga noted.

Uganda needs a win to remain in the qualification campaign, after their double (1-0) win against Rwanda.

Cranes’ Serbian coach Milutin “ Micho” Srejojevic is optimistic of getting maximum points before the team flies out to Morocco to face Mali on November 14 in a game that is likely to decide the group winners, who will enter the last stage of qualification.

Micho’s secret cards will be on Israel-based forward Fahad Bayo who scored the two goals in back-to-back wins against Amavubi.

The 23-year-old striker will be instrumental for the two remaining outings for Cranes with all eyes on him again to give the host the match needed goals as the search for a World Cup ticket for the first time continues.

For Kenya, custodian Ian Otieno is likely to return to stand in between the sticks having recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the clash against Mali in Nairobi.

Firat has no problem in defense selection having a mix of experienced and young players at his disposal.

Aboud Omar is likely to be posted on the left-back while Eric “Marcelo” Ouma might be deployed on the right.

Belgium-based Joseph Okumu could partner with Wazito FC captain Johnstone Omurwa. However, Kenya Police FC defender Musa Mohammed could be drafted in the starting lineup in order to provide much-needed experience and leadership at the backline.

In midfield, Kaizer Chief’s kingpin in the department, Anthony Akumu is hoping for a starting role after re-inclusion to the national team. He could partner with Kenneth Muguna or Richard Odada.

As for the striking line, Michael Olunga who is leading the Qatar League scoring chart with 12 goals in nine games will probably be paired with Japan-based Ismail Dunga or Eric Johanna.

The match kicks off at 4pm local time.

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