National football team Harambee Stars arrived in Kampala on Wednesday afternoon ahead of Thursday’s dead rubber 2022 World Cup qualifier against hosts Uganda Cranes at the St. Mary’s Stadium in Kitende.
Stars sit second from bottom in their group and have no chance of qualification while the match will offer all importance for Uganda, who need a win to ensure they remain in contention for a place in the play-off round.
Uganda are on eight points in Group E, two behind leaders Mali. A win against Kenya will keep their hopes alive ahead of the final match against the West Africans which is scheduled to be a do or die affair.
Cranes collected a point away from home in the first leg and the neighbors are looking to make it three this time round, at their own backyard.
“We expect an extremely tactical game from our brothers who are highly motivated to redeem their pride. We won’t focus on a must win but we shall think on ways of how to win,” said Cranes tactician Milutin Sredojevic.
His sentiments are shared by midfielder Khalid Aucho, who played a chunk of his club football in Kenya with Tusker FC and Gor Mahia FC.
“My Ninjas are ready for the game against Kenya and the focus is to collect maximum points. We aren’t under any pressure because we know our opponents in and out,” Aucho, who will captain the team on Thursday said.
Stars will be playing for nothing but pride and captain Michael Olunga says they are determined to right the wrongs from their last two matches against Mali where they suffered home and away defeats.
Stars lost 5-0 to Mali in the first leg played in Morocco before losing by a solitary goal in the return fixture.
“We don’t have a chance to qualify but we have our pride to protect. We will go all out and represent our country well and try to make amends for our last two previous matches against Mali. We will give best try work hard and make Kenyans proud,” captain Michael Olunga said.
Coach Engin Firat, under fire for his many questionable decisions in the two matches against Mali will be out to make amends and probably endear himself back to Kenyan fans as he does the final two matches of his contract.
“We have mixed young and experienced players and we have a very talented squad. We have not had so much time to train together but we will try do the best we can. We played good football at home against Mali and the only problem was that we didn’t finish our chances. Now we have to try and finish our chances to get an opportunity of getting a win,” said the Turkish coach.
Meanwhile, even as Stars continued to seek their first victory in the qualifiers, off the pitch matters have not gone silent. Federation boss Nick Mwendwa has alleged that the Ministry has not offered them any financial help towards the team’s preparations and ultimate participation in the match.
“We wrote to the Ministry one month ago and sent a reminder last week but we did not receive any communication from them. We have taken everything on credit after taking to our partners and since we can’t do credit in Uganda, we have found a way to sort the bills,”
“They (Ministry) have not responded on whether they will help us or not. Even in the Starlets match against South Sudan we did not receive anything from them,” Mwendwa said.
The Federation has been at logger heads with the Sports Ministry after CS Amina Mohamed ordered an audit on the Federation. Mwendwa has alleged that Amina is using the audit to forcefully remove him from office.