Kenya: Harambee Stars Coach Reacts to World Cup Qualifiers

22 January 2020

Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi has termed Tuesday's 2022 World Cup Africa qualifiers draw as fair.

According to the draws, Kenya has been pitted against neighbours Uganda, Rwanda and Mali in Group E.

Kimanzi said any team from the group can qualify for the final stage of the competition and dismissed assertions that Kenya's only threat are Uganda and Mali.

He said Rwanda is also a strong team and has been improving steadily in continental competitions in recent times.

"The draw is fair to us but that doesn't mean we relax and sit back. Football results are got on the pitch and even Rwanda, who are seen as underdogs in the group, can pull a surprise and qualify," said Kimanzi in an interview with Nation Sport on Wednesday.

He asserted that the national team will be in the group to compete just like its opponents and called on the government and Football Kenya Federation (FKF) support steer the team to success.

The former Mathare United coach also believes that the group favours Kenya compared to the past ones in terms of preparation, traveling and expenses to be incurred in facilitating the team to honour its group fixtures.

"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 we will cope with the away fixture as we have done in the past against Northern Africa and West Africa teams," added Kimanzi.

He also revealed that he is on the path of rebuilding the team by incorporating youngsters in his squad.

Gor Mahia captain Kenneth Muguna, who played in last year's Africa Cup of Nations, termed the group as tough noting that Uganda and Rwanda are familiar opponents.

"It is a tough group for us because Uganda and Rwanda are familiar to us. We need to prepare well because it is not easy to win against them. Mali is one of toughest teams in Africa and we should fight to get a win when we host them and avoid defeat away. Generally, the group is not easy as many think and we have to work hard as players," he said.

FKF CEO Barry Otieno said the group is fair and tricky and called on the government to support the team financially to prepare adequately for the matches.

"The group is tricky and I call on football fans to attend our matches in their numbers. I believe the government will supports us financially just as before and we wish the team all the best," he said.

This will be the 13th consecutive time Kenyans will be vying for a place in the World Cup, a tournament they have never qualified for.

The draw that was conducted at the Nile Ritz-Carlton in Cairo, Egypt, left 10 groups of four teams each where they will play each other home and away in a mini-league format.

The 10 group winners will progress to the third and final round, which will feature five two-legged play-off ties. The five winners of these play-offs qualify for Qatar 2022.

The group matches will be played from October5, 2020 to October 4, 2021 where the winners will be known.

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