Harambee Stars, Cranes to meet in derby clash

football01 September 2021 07:32| © Backpage TXT
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Kenya © Backpagepix

An East African derby between Kenya and Uganda promises a thrilling start to the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Group E campaign, with the Harambee Stars and the Cranes set to cross swords at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Thursday.

Kick-off is at 3pm CAT.

Kenya, who have never qualified for the World Cup finals, were last in action in March and recorded a 2-1 away win over Togo – courtesy of goals from Abdallah Hassan and Masud Juma – though the result was not enough to earn qualification for the next Africa Cup of Nations.

Harambee Stars coach Jacob Mulee notably left high-profile players out of his squad for this match, such as former captain Victor Wanyama, Joash Onyango, Ayub Timbe and Anthony Akumu.

Instead he has handed responsibility to local-based players, including the reigning Kenyan Premier League top goal scorer Eric Kapaito.

“I really appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given to play for the national team and we are looking to some positive results in the forthcoming qualifiers," said the Kariobangi Sharks striker.

“My hope is that we shall replicate the marvellous performance we exhibited in the Premier League when we don the national team jersey.”

Uganda, who like Kenya have never played at the global showpiece and also missed out on Afcon qualification, were last in action in June, suffering a 3-2 defeat in a friendly against South Africa in Soweto.

The Cranes have brought Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic back as coach and are looking to hand the reins over to a new generation of up-and-coming players, though captain Emmanuel Okwi remains their key figure both in terms of leadership and goal-getting.

“We have prepared well since day one of training. The response of the players has been top notch and we are ready to give our best,” said Okwi.

In head-to-head stats, Kenya and Uganda have met in 77 matches across all competitions and friendlies since their first recorded clash back in 1926. The Cranes have claimed 32 wins compared to 22 for the Harambee Stars, while 23 games have been drawn.

The teams’ most recent meeting was a friendly in Nairobi in September 2019 which ended 1-1 after goals from Kenneth Muguna and Emmanuel Okwi.

Following this match, Kenya will go on to face Rwanda in Kigali on 5 September, while Uganda will host Mali in Entebbe on 6 September.