NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 – Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi is confident the team can successfully defend the CECAFA Senior Challenge title in Kampala, Uganda, next month even as he looks to increase his squad depth for next year’s Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Stars are in Group C of the championship set for December 7-19 and will battle out with Zanzibar who they beat to clinch the 2017 title, Tanzania and Djibouti.
“It is a balanced draw, one which will be very tough but we have to be ready to face any opposition. All the teams in the group are good and we can’t afford to look down upon anyone,” Kimanzi told Capital Sport.
Stars won the title in 2017 on home soil after beating Zanzibar on penalties under the tutelage of Paul Put. The tournament was not held last year due to lack of finances, but returns this year with Kampala hosting it.
The last time Kenya played the tourney in Uganda, they finished second after losing the final to the hosts in 2012, then under James Nandwa.
Kimanzi believes the primary target of the team is to defend the crown.
“We cannot undermine the achievements of the 2017 squad and as defending champions, it is imperative we go in there to defend the title. We have to go into the tournament with a lot of seriousness and take each match with a lot of commitment,” stated Kimanzi.
“We need to do our best and retain our status as the champions,” he added.
Kimanzi also believes the tournament will give him an opportunity to assess more local based players with his eyes cast on next year’s 2021 Africa Cup of nations qualification matches as Kenya looks to qualify for Cameroon.
“There are players who we have been looking at and this will give us an opportunity to look at them better in a competitive situation. We want to have a big and competitive group for next year because this is the best way to support our ambitions. When there is good competition in the squad then the team gets better,” stated the tactician.
Meanwhile, DR Congo have confirmed their participation for the tournament and will use it to prepare for next year’s African Nations Championship. They will be in Group B alongside South Sudan, Somalia and Sudan.
Group A will have hosts Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Eritrea. This will be the first time in close to two decades that Ethiopia and Eritrea will play a match against each other after border hostilities between them were resolved.