Kenya’s Harambee Starlets are ready for their Council of East and Central African Football Association (Cecafa) opening match against Ethiopia at the Chamanzi Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Sunday.
Kenya is in Group B with Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti in the 10-day competition. Hosts Tanzania, Burundi, Zanzibar and South Sudan are in Group A.
Starlets will be out to revenge their 1-0 Cecafa loss to Ethiopia in last year’s championships held at the Stade de Kigali Stadium in Rwanda.
The national team, however, won 2-0 against Rwanda at the same venue and finished fourth, followed closely by Rwanda in fifth position. The two teams had a joint four points tie with Rwanda having a -4 goal difference.
Ethiopia which had two points more than the two teams finished third at last year’s tournament.
Despite Starlets financial constraints, the players said they are placing everything else in the back seat as they focus on getting to the finals of the competition without distractions.
Head coach David Ouma said he is proud of the team for maintaining focus throughout their various assignments despite the challenges they have faced. Ouma said their sense of patriotism and respect is admirable.
“We are going to launch our attack immediately from the first half and I am confident we will get a positive result,” said Ouma.
Ouma’s charges had to quickly shift their focus to Cecafa after failing to proceed to the fifth and last round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualifier where they lost 3-2 on aggregate to Zambia.
The Kenyan girls will be highly dependent on captain and defender Dorcas Shikobe who put pressure on some of Zambia’s best players including internationals Barbara Banda and Rachel Kundananji in their recently concluded Olympic Qualifier campaigns.
“They (Ethiopia) might have beaten us last year but this should be our year to emerge top since we have had consistent training,” said Shikobe.
Vivian Odhiambo, who secured Kenya’s second goal in their first leg match against Zambia, Jentrix Shikangwa and Mwanalima Adam will be looked upon by the rest of the team to set the pace.
Starlets goalkeeper Annedy Kundu should be weary of Ethiopia’s striker Ware Birtukan and Serkadis Kidane who scored the two goals in a recent friendly match played between the two teams three months ago in Nairobi. Kenya emerged victorious after beating the visitors 3-2.
Ethiopia’s star player Loza Abera (popularly known as the assassin) who bagged the Most Valuable Player last season, is expected to be outstanding in what promises be an explosive encounter.
Ethiopia’s head coach Meseret Manne said on Thursday her squad is confident of a win in their first match. She added that they have strengthened their defence.
The top two teams from each group will proceed to the semi-finals.
In matches played Saturday, Burundi thrashed Zanzibar 5-0 while South Sudan, captained ned by Amy Lasu who plays for Makolanders in the Kenya women Premier League was whitewashed 9-0 by Tanzania in Group A.