KAMPALA, Dec 30 – Harambee Stars open their Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) quest against defending champions Sudan at the Bugembe Stadium in Jinja on Wednesday.
Stars enter the tournament as the best Fifa-ranked side in the region and would like to justify that by winning against Sudan.
They are maintaining most of the players that did service in the early phase of the World Cup qualifiers.
Noah Ayuko would want to reaffirm his place as the country’s first choice keeper playing behind James Mulinge, Edgar Ochieng’ George Owino and John Njoroge.
Coach Francis Kimanzi would want Jamal Mohamed, Austin Makacha, Osborne Monday and Mohamed Breik in midfield.
The attack will be spearheaded by the local league’s top scorer Francis Ouma and Kevin Ochieng.
Before that, guest side Zambia who replaced Stars’ Group B rivals Eritrea take on Djibouti at the same venue.
Zambia has refused to be carried away by their on-paper advantage over the Horn of Africa state and will be going out with all guns blazing to register a much needed victory.
The Zambians last attended a CECAFA tournament in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia two years ago. They started badly after underating Burundi only to go down 2-3 in their opening.
But they put their act together to go on to beat Sudan in the final.
The Zambians did not take home the trophy as it was reserved for the best CECAFA side, in that case Sudan.
This time the Zambians would like to go through the tournament unscathed thus the need to take the match against underdogs Djibouti very seriously.
The team is under the tutelage of Frenchman Herve Renard whose resume includes having worked with Claude Leroy with the Ghana Black Stars in the last African Cup of Nations tournament in Ghana.
The Zambians have qualified for the final phase of the World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifying rounds and to the Africa Cup of Nations 11, which is reserved for home-based players.
They would thus like to use this tournament as part of their training programme for the three events.
"Most of my players are young and would like to use this tournament to improve their international caps," said Renard on Tuesday.
The only highly experienced player in the side is Elijah Tana, the captain with strikers Given Singaluma and Rodger Kola the other players to watch.