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Stars face acid test against Sudan today

By GILBERT WANDERA

Kenya take on Sudan this afternoon (Wednesday) in the opening match of the Nile Basin tournament at the National Stadium in Cairo.

The Kenyan side will be hoping to bounce back after a disastrous outing in Tanzania last month where they failed to win even a single match in the regional Senior Challenge Cup tournament.

That poor performance led to the resignation of Jacob Mulee as head coach and the new man Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno hopes to resuscitate the team’s fortunes.

Kenya have so far held two training sessions after arriving in Cairo on Monday morning and hopes to start the tournament on a positive note as the competition gets more challenging in the coming days.

The Kenyan coach said he hopes to win at least two matches here and today’s fixture provides him with an opportunity for a good start in the event.

"This tournament has come at the right time because it gives an opportunity to make up for a poor performance in the Senior Challenge Cup. Our goal is to win the first two matches which should make up for our failure in Cecafa," said Otieno.

Even though Otieno was denied the use of at least seven experienced players after former Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions withdrew their players, the Kenyan tactician is unfazed and hopes to make an impact with his young and inexperienced side.

Francis Ochieng,’ voted last year’s best goalkeeper, is sure to start in goal with the defence manned by Jockins Atudo, Haevener Maloba and Lloyd Wahome.

Gor Mahia youngster who attended trials with Randers of Denmark last year is expected to earn his first cap in mid-field where experienced Levy Muaka and another youngster David Gateri are expected to play a pivotal role.

Revive fortunes

There are plenty of options upfront and Otieno could play Patrick Oboya and Innocent Mutiso and bring in Tusker’s Dennis Mukaisi as a substitute.

Like Kenya, Sudan are using this tournament to revive their fortunes as a formidable side in the region. The last time Kenya played Sudan was in December 2008 and the match ended in a barren draw.

Uganda Cranes, last year’s Cecafa semi-finalists kick off the Nile Basin tournament with a match against Burundi from 2.45p.m. Ugandan coach Bobby Williamson has drafted seven youngsters into his team and is using this tournament to prepare for the CHAN tournament in Sudan next month.

Latecomers Burundi have maintained the same squad they used in last month’s Senior Challenge Cup in Tanzania. Tournament favourites and hosts Egypt play Tanzania in the last match of the day tonight with kick-off slated for 7p.m.

The Pharaohs have a faltering campaign in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and are on the brink of missing out. A good start in this tournament should help maintain the hopes of the millions of football lovers in this country.