Kenya, Ethiopia face-off in World Cup qualifier

Elizabeth Ochaka

Kenya Under-17 national team captain Elizabeth Ochaka during a training session at Dandora Stadium in Nairobi on May 7, 2024.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Junior Starlets captain Elizabeth Ochaka has urged her teammates to play for the flag when they face Ethiopia in the second leg of their third round of the 2024 Fifa Under-17 Women's World Cup qualifiers on Sunday.

The match, set to kick off at 3pm, will be played at the Ulinzi Sports Complex in Nairobi.

The first leg between the two teams ended in a goalless draw at Abebe Bikila Stadium in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on May 10.

The aggregate winner of this tie will progress to the fourth and final round, where Burundi await.

Burundi secured a massive 24-0 aggregate victory over Djibouti in their third-round tie.

“We’ve identified the need to improve our speed and coordination because that was a big challenge in the first leg. I urge my fellow players to push ourselves because Ethiopia are beatable but strong at the same time. We must win to qualify for the next stage,” said Ochaka, a defender.

Ochaka was solid in the Kenyan defence alongside Christine Adhiambo, Kimberly Akinyi and Lorine Alavango in the first leg.

“Training has been intense since we left Ethiopia. We have pushed ourselves and worked on our weaknesses. Now, it’s our turn to implement what we learned from the technical bench throughout the week, as they have done their part. I call on the fans to show up in large numbers to support us,” added Ochaka.

Despite Kenya’s struggle to create scoring chances in the previous match, with striker Valarie Nekesa marked out of the game by the Ethiopian defenders, she remains a player to watch today.

Scoring four goals

Nekesa played a crucial role in helping the Kenya Under-18 team, Rising Starlets, qualify for the third round of 2024 Fifa Under 18 World Cup qualifiers by defeating Angola 10-1 on aggregate late last year, with Nekesa scoring four goals.

However, Rising Starlets were eliminated by Cameroon 6-2 on aggregate in the third round.

Junior Starlets coach Mildred Cheche says she will make tactical adjustments ahead of the game.

“Playing away is different from playing at home and we will make a few changes in the team. We will see more offensive play apart from the defence and we will be a step closer when we win the match. Let's keep dreaming of playing in the World Cup,” said Cheche.

Kenya need a win of any kind to qualify for the final round, while a 0-0 draw will mean the game will be decided on post-match penalties. No extra time will be needed if the teams tie 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes, as the teams will head straight to penalties. A scoring draw will favour the visitors, as they will advance on away goals rule.

The Dominican Republic will host the Under 17 World Cup from October 16 to November 3.

Ethiopia eliminated South Africa 3-0 on aggregate in the second round in February, while Kenya got a bye after the Democratic Republic of Congo withdrew from the qualifiers.

Ethiopia arrived in Kenya on Friday and conducted their final training session on Saturday at Ulinzi Sports Complex.