Kenya coach Twahir Mihiddin has said Harambee Stars must be wary right from the group stage following the release of the Orange Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup draw on Thursday.
Hosts Kenya were drawn in Group “A” together with African Nations Cup-bound Zambia, 2004, 2005 Senior Challenge Cup champions Ethiopia and minnows Djibouti.
“If you look at the teams, this is a tough group and we have to be alert through out. It is good because it will keep us on our toes,” Muhiddin said.
Kenya will open the tournament with a difficult outing against guest side Zambia at Nyayo National Stadium November 28.
“Zambia are going to Angola and have been a very consistent team in Africa. This will be a very important match that will set the tone for us. We must safely negotiate the group phase before we can think about winning the cup,” Muhiddin said.
Reigning Council of Southern African Football Associations champions Zimbabwe are the top seed in Group “B” that also has Rwanda, ever improving Eritrea and perennial campaigners Somalia.
Defending champions Uganda top a tricky looking Group “C” and will do battle with Tanzania, Burundi and Zanzibar.
Surprisingly missing from the draw is Sudan.
“We excluded them from the draw because they did not confirm their participation. They are out of the tournament,” Cecafa media officer Finny Muyeshi said.
Sudan, three time winners of the Challenge Cup, are considered one of the strongest football nations in the region. They played in the 2008 African Cup of Nations and made to the final round of qualifiers for the 2010 African finals.
The top two teams from each group in the Orange Challenge Cup this year will qualify for the quarter-finals together with the best two third placed finishers.
Group “A” and “B” will be based in Nairobi while Group “C” will be in Mumias.
Nyayo National Stadium, in addition to hosting some of the preliminary matches will also stage both semi-finals and the final. This is the first time since 1994 that the Challenge Cup will be held in Kenya.
Group “A” – Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia, Djibouti.
Group “B” – Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Eritrea, Somalia. Group “C” – Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Zanzibar.
Order of play: November 28 – Kenya v Zambia (4pm, Nyayo Stadium); November 29 – Rwanda v Somalia (4pm, Nyayo Stadium), Burundi v Zanzibar (2pm Mumias Complex), Uganda v Tanzania (4pm, Mumias Complex). November 30 – Ethiopia v Djibouti (4 pm, Nyayo Stadium). December 1 – Eritrea v Zimbabwe (4pm, Nyayo Stadium), Zanzibar v Tanzania (4pm, Mumias Complex). December 2 – Ethiopia v Zambia (2pm, Nyayo Stadium), Djibouti v Kenya (4pm, Nyayo Stadium), Burundi v Uganda (4pm, Mumias Complex). December 3 – Rwanda v Eritrea (2pm, Nyayo Stadium), Zimbabwe v Somalia (4pm, Nyayo Stadium). December 4 – Djibouti v Zambia (2pm, Nyayo Stadium), Kenya v Ethiopia (4pm, Nyayo Stadium), Tanzania v Burundi (2pm, Mumias Complex), Uganda v Zanzibar (4pm, Mumias Complex). December 5 – Somalia v Eritrea (2 pm, Nyayo Stadium), Rwanda v Zimbabwe (4pm, Nyayo Stadium). December 7 and 8 – Quarterfinals. December 9 and 10 – Semi-finals. December 13 – Final.