Kenya’s Harambee Stars take on Uganda Cranes on Thursday in their Group E opener in the qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in what is expected to be a hotly contested derby.
Matches between the two sides have often than not been explosive and it will be no different when the two start the journey towards Qatar 2022 at the Nyayo National Stadium in Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi on Thursday.
Uganda’s head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic will be making his first competitive appearance on the dugout since returning for his second stint as the Cranes head coach. The tactician is confident that despite handling a team on transition, he has enough in the gas to pocket three points away from home.
“We respect Kenya as a team and as a nation but we are here to fight and ensure we get a good result. This will be a match that will test the character of my players and there is a lot at stake. It will be more difficult because you are playing against a team and players that know you and you know them,” coach Micho said.
He added; “We are playing a very good and competitive team and they have an advantage because most of their players have been active in leagues while ours has been on recess. It will be a match that will be decided on small details and I hope that the small details go our way.”
The last time ‘Micho’ played the Harambee Stars was in October last year in a friendly match while with Zambia, the game ending 2-1 in favour of the Harambee Stars. The Serbian tactician hopes that his return to Nairobi will be a happier one this time round.
Meanwhile, Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee is a man who knows Micho and Uganda inside out, having worked for a long time as a pundit and FIFA Instructor over the 10-years he was out of coaching.
“I know Micho very well because he has been in the continent for long. He has a very good CV as a coach and definitely it will be tough against him. But this is football and it is the 90 minutes on the pitch that will decide,” coach Mulee said.
He added; “Uganda has a very good team and this being a derby, they will definitely want to carry the bragging rights. As a team we have prepared well and everyone is looking forward to giving a good account of themselves.”
The last three meetings between the two sides have ended in draws, all coming off friendly matches. The other competitive meetings between the two sides have come off at the CECAFA Senior Challenge, but the biggest was in October 2011 when Kenya held the Ugandans to a 0-0 draw in Kampala, denying them a chance of progressing to the Africa Cup of Nations.
The two sides will be keen to pick a positive result on Thursday, with Kenya headed to Rwanda for their second match against hosts Amavubi while Uganda will be at home against Mali.