Mind games? ‘Micho’ says Stars have advantage over Uganda ahead of WCQ
Jacob Iciain Nairobi
Uganda Cranes head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic says it is difficult to play Kenya’s Harambee Stars due to the ‘familiarity’ that exists between the teams, ahead of their Group E 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
Micho, who returned to coach Uganda just a month ago after leaving the team in 2017, also says Kenya has a slight advantage over their neighbours going into the match, reflecting on the premier leagues of both countries.
“This is one more episode of the never ending derbies between Kenya and Uganda. It will be a measure of value and a test of character for Uganda Cranes that is a team in transition with too much at stake being a World Cup qualifier.
“It is very difficult to play the friends that you know, players from their childhood and the coach from his humble beginnings. It will be a very tough match that will show us where we are,” said Micho.
Having jetted in Nairobi on Monday night only two days to the crucial tie, the Serb, despite giving the hosts an upper hand, has promised they will give their all to start their march to Qatar on a positive note.
“We know that we are playing a very competitive and good team that has a huge advantage bearing in mind coach Jacob (Mulee) was in charge during the African Cup of Nations qualifiers in March. Kenya’s league has also been running up to just a week ago hence giving players the fitness they need. On our side we have been on a long recess so we have certain problems but it will be a match whose small details will matter and we will do everything to ensure those details will go our way,” he said.
During the AFCON qualifiers Micho was alluding to, Mulee took over midway from Francis Kimanzi while Uganda were under former coach Johnathan McKingstry.
Cranes arrived in Nairobi from Ethiopia, where they lost 2-1 in their warm up for Kenya’s match, a match captain Emmanuel Okwi says was invaluable to in their preparations.
“The match against Ethiopia didn’t go our way but we are glad because we have seen some of the areas we need to fix. By the time we get to Thursday we shall have addressed them and be sure we are ready for the match,” Okwi, who is currently unattached noted.
The last match Micho played against Kenya was in October 2020, then coaching Zambia as Stars won the friendly 2-1.
Meanwhile, all foreign based Harambee Stars players are in camp as of Tuesday afternoon, FKF Communications Department has confirmed.
KAA Gent centre-back Joseph Stanley Okumu and Jonkopings Sodra IF attacker Eric Johana Omondi were the latest arrivals, after captain Michael Olunga, Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma, Richard Odada, Kenneth Muguna, Masoud Juma, Ian Otieno arrived earlier on Monday.
Kenya will play Uganda at the Nyayo National Stadium on Thursday from 4:00pm before jetting out to Rwanda at 9:00pm same night.
Rwanda, on the other hand are away to Agadir – Morocco where Mali, the other Group E members will be clashing in their opening qualifier.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has not passed Stadia in Mali to host high profile matches, with their main one Stade du 26 Mars Bamako still under renovation.