Kenya optimistic of World Cup chances after ‘fair’ draw

Kenya’s draw for the FIFA World Cup round two qualifiers was received with much optimism with stakeholders sharing the view that Harambee Stars have a realistic of reaching the third and final qualifying round.

Kenya will play Group E’s top-seeded team Mali, rivals Uganda and Rwanda in their quest to appear in their first ever World Cup that will be staged at Qatar 2022.

Soon after the draw, there were positive reactions on social media with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa posted on his official Twitter account saying “doable, can do. Let’s do it stars!”

Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi on his part has said there is a big chance for Kenya, but quickly pointed out that preparations must be done with utmost seriousness for Kenyans to stand a chance.

“The draw is fair yes, but that does not mean we just sit and relax. Not even Rwanda can be taken for granted in this group if anyone sees them as an underdog. They can as well pull a surprise and qualify,” Kimanzi said.

While Kenya is placed 25th and 106th in the latest zonal and global FIFA rankings respectively, Mali is the only team from Group E among the top 10 teams in Africa at number nine, and 56th in the global standings.

Uganda is 15th in Africa and 77th in the global ranking, while Rwanda sits at 36 and 131 in Africa and world tables respectively.

Interesting for Kimanzi is the close proximity of the East African teams in the group, a factor he considers to be a big plus in logistics and preparations for the away matches.

“Rwanda and Uganda are our neighbours and this is good for us in terms of traveling logistics and planning arrangements. It is only Mali which is far, but should not be a big challenge for us to handle drawing from
our past experiences with Western and Northern African teams,” told a confident Kimanzi.

His Ugandan counterpart Jonathan McKinstry has shown respect for the teams in the pool, signalling excitement ahead of the opening fixtures later this year.

“A young and talented @LesAiglesduMali and local derby rivals @Football_Kenya and @FERWAFA await @UgandaCranes in the @FIFAWorldCup qualifiers kicking off in Oct 2020. A group that presents great opportunity, but also intriguing challenges. We look forward to the journey,” the polished Irish tactician posted on his official Twitter account.

At the same time, former Cranes coach Micho Sredejovic has singled out Uganda as the team to beat in the group.

“Very playable group that has three neighbours clashing and Uganda is under normal circumstances the favourite. They have no right however to undermine Kenya and Rwanda as those are party spoilers that have neighbourhood prestige motivation on their side. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, remind yourself about Kenya spoiling party in 2011, Rwanda in 2003,” Micho Uganda’s Football256 after the draw.

On October 8th, 2011 Kenya extinguished Cranes’ hopes of qualifying for the 2012 African Cup of Nations by forcing a draw at Namboole Stadium – Kampala, while the neighbours needed a draw to make it for the continental fiesta.

In late 2019, Kenya drew Uganda 0-0 at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani, in an international friendly that both sides, especially Uganda missed most of the fisrt team players. The Ugandans have had almost a balanced record against Kenya in their long history since the days of Gossage Cup, now CECAFA Senior Challenge.

The last meeting between Kenya and Mali was in 2004 during the Tunisia AFCON, where Frederick Kanoute inspired the latter to a 3-1 victory over Harambee Stars. The only other recorded meeting ended up in a draw, in the 1972 Cup of Nations edition.

Against Rwanda, Kenya has won three of the last five meetings, lost one and drawing the other with the last clash being the 2-0 win in the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.

Full Draws

GROUP A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti

GROUP B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea

GROUP C: Nigeria, Cape Verde, Central Africa, Liberia

GROUP D: Cameroon, Cotedivoire, Mozambique, Malawi

GROUP E: Mali, Uganda , Kenya, Rwanda

GROUP F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola

GROUP G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia

GROUP H: Senegal, Congo,Namibia, Togo

GROUP I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sudan

GROUP J: DR.Congo, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania.