Harambee Stars warned to take a cautious approach to the 2021 AFCON qualifiers

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Sunday, July 21st 2019 at 13:50 GMT +3 | Football
Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye has challenged Kenya not to underrate their opponents [Courtesy]

National football team, Harambee Stars have been warned to take a cautious approach to the 2021 African Nations Cup qualifiers.

Harambee Stars, who made their return to the just concluded continental showpiece in Egypt after a 15-year absence, have been drawn in a relatively easy Group G alongside Mohammed Salah's Pharaohs, Togo and Comoros Island.

Though on paper the group looks easy, Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye has challenged Kenya not to underrate their opponents.

The group phase kicks off in November, one month after the four preliminary round ties.

"The group looks easy and Kenya might have a chance to qualify again, but they should not underestimate any team there," Musonye told Standard Sports.

"Of course Egypt remains the group's favourite, but we shouldn't forget that a team like Comoros has vastly improved with most of their players plying their trade in France."

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But for Football Kenya Federation boss Nick Mwendwa, the national team still has a strong chance to qualify for the finals to be held in Cameroon.

"Of course this is a tricky group, but I think we have a chance to qualify again. What we need to do is to win our home matches and get a positive result away. With hard work and good preparation, we will achieve that," said Mwendwa.

Meanwhile, there will be plenty at stake when Cecafa Kagame Cup holders Azam clash with Ugandan champions KCCA in today's final match at 6 pm at the Kigali Stadium, in Rwanda.

The final match will be preceded by a 3 pm third-place playoff encounter between invited Zambian side Green Eagles and their Congolese counterparts AS Maniema at 3 pm.

KCCA overcame the Eagles 4-3 in extra time after a 2-2 draw in regular time to secure a ticket to the final, while Azam edged out Maniema 5-4 on penalties after a barren draw in extra time.

But while Azam will be aiming to retain the title they won last year at home after stunning Tanzanian giants Simba SC in Dar es Saalam, the Ugandans will be seeking to end their 40-year Kagame Cup trophy drought.

The Lugogo-based outfit last won the regional trophy in 1978 when they beat Simba SC 3-2 on post-match penalties, following a goalless draw.

Save for the title, the winners will walk away with $30,000 (Sh3 M) in prize money as the runners up pocket $20,000 (Sh2 M). The bronze medalists will get $10,000 (Sh1 M).

But having beaten Azam 1-0 in their group fixtures in Huye, KCCA coach Mike Mutebi expects a tough but entertaining final match.

"It is not yet celebration time. Finals are always difficult and any team can crumble. But I'm so far pleased with my players' performance and mental strength. It's been long since we lifted this trophy; this is our moment," Mutebi told Standard Sports.

"But we aren't underrating Azam. They are champions and worthy opponents, playing against champions is always difficult. They have proved to be a tough team to break down but we need to confirm our group win against them wasn't a fluke.

"I believe we have what it takes to be crowned the champions. The boys have shown that they can score goals, what we need to do is to defend well."

Kenya's 2021 AFCON Qualifiers

Group G: Egypt, Kenya, Togo and Comoros Island

Today's Kagame Cup Finals fixtures

Third place playoff

AS Maniema v Green Eagles-Kigali (3 pm)


Azam v KCCA-Kigali (6 pm)