NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 23 – Uganda Cranes head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic says he has ‘maximum respect’ for the Kenyan national team as the two sides prepare to lock horns on Thursday afternoon at Machakos’ Kenyatta Stadium in an international friendly match.
The Serbian tactician expects a tough encounter when the two rivals clash but he also sees it as an opportune time to build his team looking forward to the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN), 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers later in the year.
“I have maximum respect for Kenya because they are one of the fastest growing teams in Africa. Over the last one year what has been achieved by the team is great and for that I know it is going to be a very competitive match between us,” the tactician told Capital Sport.
The last time these two sides met was in August last year in Kampala, the match ending in a 0-0 draw at the Namboole Stadium. Prior to that, they had played in 2015 at the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in Ethiopia where Kenya won 2-0.
“Kenya has a very good team and good individual players as well. Tactically they are gifted and this is a good test for my team,” Micho opined.
He has brought with him a squad mostly comprised of local based players with only six of the 18 being foreign based. Of the six, five play their football in the East African region including Tusker FC’s Shafik Batambuze and Gor Mahia’s Godfrey Walusimbi.
“We want to build a new generation of players and this is a good time to put them to the test and measure how much they can grow. It is also a time to experiment because we want to have a huge field of players to select from for future assignments,” noted the tactician.
Tusker’s Batambuze who earned his first ever call up to the national team last year and made the cut for the squad to the African Cup of Nations in January might be in line for his first ever Uganda Cranes cap, though Micho is coy on whether or not he will give him an opportunity.
“He has done very well at Tusker and is good on set pieces. Congratulations to him for the player of the month award. On whether he will play, we will see,” the coach hinted.
Batambuze himself is ready if called upon; “Football is all about working hard and waiting for your chance. For me, I have done my part and if I am given an opportunity I will prove my worth.”
Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi is also expected to field a squad hugely made up of local based players with another friendly against DR Congo on Sunday providing him with an opportunity of fielding his full strength squad.
The bigger picture on the tactician’s mind will be to build up for the 2018 CHAN which will be held in Kenya with the only other international fixture between now and then being the 2019 AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone away.