What you need to know:
- Even though the team has already qualified for the semi-finals, assistant coach Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno has warned the players against complacency when they take on the Indian Ocean islanders.
- Kenya qualified for the semi-finals after edging Tanzania and Sudan 1-0 and 2-1 respectively in their opening two matches.
Holders Kenya take on Zanzibar in their final Group 'B' match of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup Saturday afternoon at the Lugogo Stadium in Kampala.
Even though the team has already qualified for the semi-finals, assistant coach Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno has warned the players against complacency when they take on the Indian Ocean islanders.
The two teams met in the final of the same tournament in 2017 at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos with Zanzibar stretching the hosts to the limit in .
Kenya eventually won the trophy after triumphing 3-2 on post-match penalties having settled for a 2-2 draw in regulation time and the closely contested encounter has Otieno wary of the threat Zanzibar pose on Harambee Stars.
"We know they are worthy opponents and therefore cannot afford to underrate them. We want to win this game and finish top of our group,” Otieno said.
Kenya qualified for the semi-finals after edging Tanzania and Sudan 1-0 and 2-1 respectively in their opening two matches. Despite using a second-string side for the tournament, Otieno is happy with the performance and commitment shown by the players.
“Everything has gone according to plan and we now hope to edge Zanzibar to top the group. We know it won’t be a walk in the park but we will stick to our game plan and hopefully get the three points,” he says
Tanzania edged out Zanzibar by a solitary goal in the tournament but Otieno believes they will face a different Zanzibar side Saturday afternoon.
“It was a derby (Tanzania versus Zanzibar) with a lot of emotions involved and therefore very difficult to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of Zanzibar based on that match. However, we know they are a good side and have prepared with that in mind.”
“The players have really impressed so far and our intention is to have a large pool of players to choose from for our Afcon and World Cup qualifiers next year. We are using Cecafa to test some players and so far most of them have already justified their inclusion. I think we will have a very strong team for the qualifiers in March and September,” added Otieno, who will once again lead Stars in the absence of suspended head coach Francis Kimanzi.
Kimanzi completes his two-match suspension on Saturday and will be back for the semi-finals.
One of the players who has already given the technical bench something to think about is Bandari winger Abdallah Hassan. He has scored two goals so far in the tournament and is already eying a place in the “A” team.
“It feels great to score but the most important thing is to help the team win and retain the Cecafa title. That is my target at the moment and I am happy it is working out so far. I had prepared for the moment and I cannot let this chance pass without making use of it. It has always been my dream to play regularly for the national team and I am ready and looking forward to featuring in the qualifiers next year,” Hassan said.
“They have to win to qualify and therefore will give their all in this match. We need to score early goals and defend resolutely as a team. It will not be an easy match but we have prepared well and if we get our tactics right we will emerge victorious,” the Bandari ace added.
Zanzibar drew 1-1 with Sudan in their opening match before losing 1-0 to Tanzania in their second but captain Yahya Abbas Mudathiri is optimistic they can qualify if they beat Kenya and Tanzania fail to beat Sudan in the other encounter.
“We still have that slim chance and we must go all out and try. We are aware that it is not an easy task but it is possible,” he is quoted as saying by the Zanzibar FA.
Zanzibar Heroes coach Suleiman Ali Hemed believes his team has been unlucky and poor upfront. “We are playing good football, but lacking the final punch,” Hemed said.
FIXTURES (All matches at Lugogo Stadium)
Kenya v Zanzibar – 1:30 pm
Sudan v Tanzania – 4 pm
Somalia v Eritrea – 1:30 pm
Uganda v Djibouti – 4 pm