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Kenya’s Junior Stars eye CECAFA trophy at home

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Kenya's Junior Stars celebrate one of their goals against Somalia
Kenya's Junior Stars celebrate one of their goals against Somalia
  • Kenya beat Tanzania to make it into the final
  • They will face Uganda
  • The final will be played at the Jomo Kenyatta Stadium in Kisumu

Kenya will look to clinch the CECAFA Under-18 title on home soil, when they take on Uganda in the final at the Jomo Kenyatta Stadium in Mamboleo, Kisumu, on Friday afternoon. The team progressed to the final after edging out Tanzania 4-3 on post match penalties.

The Junior Stars have had a good outing in the tournament so far and will be keen to put the icing on the cake, with the trophy at stake.

Head coach Salim Babu says the team is ready and has prepared well to ensure they battle for the crown in front of the home fans.

“Our initial target was to get to the final and now that we have achieved it, we are ready to give our best. It will be a different approach from the Tanzania game and this time, we want to make sure that we go all out and attack from the first minute,” the tactician said.

He adds; “It will be important for us to get an early goal because it will give us some momentum to build.”

The tactician believes it will not be easy against the physical Ugandans, but says his side has the ability to tackle them.

“I have watched them play two times and they are a good side. Yes they are physically bigger than us, but sometimes football is not just about the physical aspect. We have the skill, we have the speed and I believe we can beat them,” noted the coach.

Fans to turn out in large numbers 

Kenya's Junior Stars line up before their match against Tanzania

Kenya’s Junior Stars line up before their match against Tanzania

Meanwhile, he has asked fans to turn out in large numbers and give them the support to battle for the title.

“We are not under any pressure. We will be delighted if the fans can come same way they have been coming and they will push the boys to win this trophy,” the coach noted.

His sentiments are shared by goalkeeper Ibrahim Wanzala who says; “The fans really played a big role as we won against Tanzania in the semis. I hope they can come in large numbers again because they give us a lot of motivation. We are ready for the match, the coaches have done their bit to prepare us and now the opportunity is for us to go in and do our best.”

Kenya had to stand the nerves of penalties to beat Tanzania 4-3 in the semis, after a 0-0 draw in both normal and regulation time.

Wanzala was the penalty hero for Kenya, saving two, to enable the team progress to the ultimate duel against Uganda.

Wanzala saved penalties from Said Said and Shariff Wilson.

Kenya’s Collins Ongoli had stepped up first on the penalties, and scored, just after Tanzania had started off on a good note through Benjamin Ramadhan. Goalkeeper Wanzala then stepped up to do duty, saving Said’s penalty. This handed Kenya a massive opportunity and captain Amos Wanjala then expertly tucked away his kick as Kenya went 2-1 up.

Stanley Wilson hits penalty wide 

Action between Kenya and Tanzania in the semi-finals

Action between Kenya and Tanzania in the semi-finals

Hijjah Lidda then stepped up to score for Tanzania, but parity was restored after star player Stanley Wilson hit his penalty wide.

Humprey Aroko and Phales Mkude then scored the fourth kicks for Kenya and Tanzania respectively, and it was now down to the last of the five to get the winner.

Up stepped Tanzania first and Wanjala once again came up big for Kenya, superbly keeping away Shariff’s penalty.

Honours was now on substitute Syphas Owuor and the Michael Olunga Foundation Academy (MOFA) player showed nerves of steel, stepping up to score the final kick and send the stadium into pandemonium as Kenya booked a slot in the final.

“It was a really tough game and I thank the players for stepping up especially on penalties. It takes a lot especially with such a crowd and being young, many would get that stage fright but my boys really did well,” coach Babu noted.

The Kenyans will now take on Uganda in the final, the latter having beaten Rwanda 1-0 in the other semi-final.

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