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Kenya seek to restore pride against Uganda as Olunga calls on his teammates to play for the badge

FOOTBALL By Ochieng Oyugi | November 9th 2021 | 3 min read
Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga in a training session yesterday, at Nyayo Stadium. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga knows they have some unfinished business with Uganda.

For Olunga, they must play for the badge in the remaining two Fifa 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Uganda and Rwanda in the next one week.

Kenya will play Uganda away in Kampala on Thursday before ending their Group E fixture with Rwanda at home on Tuesday.

“Despite having nothing to lose, we are pledging to make Kenya proud in the remaining games. Our perennial rivals Uganda should brace for a tough battle in Kampala,” Olunga told Standard Sports before their midday training session yesterday, at Nyayo Stadium.

The Al Duhail FC striker said the squad is working hard to bounce back from the setback against Mali, who beat them home and away.

“We are very positive in the last two encounters, our aim is to finish the group on a high,” Olunga said.

Kenya heads to Kampala after a barren draw in the opening leg at Nyayo Stadium, which was played on September 2.

The two nations have always had cut-throat battles when playing each other, with their last four outings ending in draws.

The last time Kenya defeated the Ugandans was in 2015, during the CECAFA tournament. Kenya won 2-0.

“Playing Uganda is going to be a very difficult task, but we are ready for it,” Olunga said.

Olunga’s sentiments were echoed by Gor Mahia FC defender Philemon Otieno, who makes a return to the Stars fold, together with Michael Mutinda, Anthony Akumu and Eric Johanna.

“I feel good to return to the national team. I’m ready to give my best,” Otieno said.

“We will protect the image of the country by getting good results in Kampala. Nothing is impossible. We can beat Uganda in their backyard,” Otieno added.

New call up, Wilkins Ochieng is already excited with the Kampala trip. The 18-year-old Club Brugge utility midfielder cannot keep quite ahead of his debut in the national team saying he has kept his mother informed with his latest developments in the team.

“I’m proud with the call up. I’m happy to get this chance and make my country proud,” said Ochieng.

“I’m learning Kiswahili and my roommate Olunga has been so helpful with the orientation. He has been explaining everything to me.”

Head coach Engin Firat said his current team is a mixture of youth and experience. He believes the team is well balanced and will deliver in the coming two fixtures.

The tactician dropped Stanley Okumu ( KAA Gent), Masud Juma( Difaa Hassani El Jadidi) and Boniface Muchiri (Tusker FC) due to injuries.

He also dropped Joash Onyango (Simba SC) and Brian Mandela (Mamelodi Sundowns) due to club commitments.

Instead, he has roped in former Gor Mahia captain Musa Mohammed and David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng to add depth to the squad.

“I want the boys to be mentally prepared for Uganda. I want to improve on my finishing by winning the remaining two fixtures of the group,” said Firat.

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