What you need to know:
- Kenya and Uganda have met 76 times, with Kenya winning 22 and Uganda clinching 32 victories.
- Out of the last six matches between the two neighbours, five have ended in a draw, while Uganda has won one.
Harambee Stars tactician Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee has defended his team selection ahead of their opening 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Uganda at the Nyayo National Stadium on Thursday.
Mulee instead said his focus is not only qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar, but also nurturing the players who can take over when senior players exit the team in the coming years.
The experienced tactician left out captain Victor Wanyama, Simba SC defender Joash Onyango, Zesco United forward Jesse Were, Mamelodi Sundowns defender Brian Mandela and unattached winger Ayub Timbe from his squad.
Kenya and Uganda will rekindle the rivalry on the pitch from 4pm in the Group E tie. Stars will then travel to Kigali, Rwanda where they play hosts Amavubi Stars in their second match of the group Sunday.
Cranes, under the tutelage of Serbian tactician Milutin Micho Sredojevic, arrived in the country on Tuesday morning from a long-week camp in Ethiopia, ahead of the match which will be played behind closed doors to avoid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The mixture in my squad is very important for Kenya and has many local based players. Apart from the qualifiers, my focus is on the transition where we can nurture players who can take over when their senior team mates exit,” Mulee told NTV on Monday evening.
Mulee trimmed his squad from 36 to 28 after axing eight local based players. Foreign-based players are already in the country and joined their teammates in camp on Monday.
Those who were dropped were Nashon Alembi (KCB), Clyde Senaji (AFC Leopards), Baraka Badi (KCB), Kevin Kimani (Wazito), Samuel Onyango (Gor Mahia), Clifton Miheso( Gor Mahia), Benson Omala (Gor Mahia) and Kariobangi Sharks custodian Brandon Obiero.
Among the foreign-based players who arrived in camp on Monday include Michael Olunga (Al-Duhail, Qatar), Masud Juma (Difaâ Hassani El Jadidi, Morocco), Joseph Okumu (KAA Gent, Belgium), Eric Ouma (AIK, Sweden), Richard Odada (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Duke Abuya (Nkana, Zambia), Duncan Otieno (Lusaka Warriors, Zambia) and Eric Johanna (Jonkopings Sondra IF, Sweden).
Mulee asserted that he will not depart from his philosophy of playing possessive football, irrespective of the result on the pitch.
“Even if you lose, you should have enjoyed the game. My philosophy is to play beautiful football and keep possession on the pitch. If you can’t enjoy the game, why play for 90 minutes on the pitch,” said Mulee.
Micho, 51, has however tipped Kenya to beat his side saying they are fit from the just concluded season, while the Ugandan league ended prematurely as the country was put under lockdown to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
"It will be a very tough match that will show us where we are at present, we know we are playing a very competitive team that has a huge advantage bearing in mind that coach Jacob (Mulee) had good qualifiers in March and the league has been concluded,” said Micho told FKF Media.
Kenya and Uganda have met 76 times, with Kenya winning 22 and Uganda clinching 32 victories.
Out of the last six matches between the two neighbours, five have ended in a draw, while Uganda has won one.