Reading into the 2017 Nations Cup qualification draw, some sections of the public are already counting Cranes to have qualified even before a ball is kicked, as this is viewed as the nicest draw The Cranes could have asked for, writes JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE.
Burkina Faso, the top seeds in this group, will be feeling quite confident to finish atop this group as automatic qualifiers. But with their recent underwhelming display in Equatorial Guinea, where they failed to replicate the form that saw them finish second at the 2013 Afcon, they will have some soul-searching to do having failed to emerge from a group that had Equatorial Guinea, Congo and Gabon.
In addition, Burkina Faso’s last meeting with The Cranes was during the opening group B game at the Chan in South Africa last year. A brace from a little-known fellow Yunus Sentamu ensured that Cranes beat the Burkinabe boys 2-1.
Even then, they failed to qualify for the knockout stage, which appears to portray a declining trend for Burkina Faso if their recent Afcon failure is to be considered too. But that is not to say that Cranes can underestimate Burkina Faso. In 2004, Cranes lost to Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou 2-0 but drew 2-2 with them in October 2005 at Namboole stadium.
Equally so, like has been in the past, Cranes has a task to end its third game jinx, and the fixture against Burkina Faso will come in at number three. This remains a fresh wound considering that the seemingly weakest team in Cranes group in the last campaign, Togo, came to Namboole and won 1-0, which destabilized a good qualification campaign that Cranes had put up after its first two games against more formidable opposition in the shape of Ghana (1-1) and Guinea (2-0).
Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, the coach who last took Kenya to the Afcon in 2004, told The Observer that the biggest undoing for teams in this region, is undermining opponents, yet “we have no pedigree to really warrant any such arrogance.”
Mulee said that from his view, the reason Kenya failed to make it to the group stages of the 2015 Afcon qualifiers was because they underlooked Lesotho. “That is where we get it wrong thinking that Africa still has weak sides.”
Mulee said this in respect to the question of whether Cranes should consider a clean sweep over Botswana and above all, Comoros.
Ordinarily, most Ugandans will view Botswana and Comoros as non-starters. But, Mulee added: “Make no mistake. Even Kenya laboured against Comoros last May.” Comoros, Mulee explained, has a number of professional players based in France and they can make a huge difference.
While Cranes struggled to knock out Madagascar in the preliminary round of the last campaign on away goals rule following a 2-2 aggregate score, Kenya drew 1-1 away in Comoros and only managed a slim 1-0 win. In addition, Cranes last meeting with Botswana was in a friendly in Gaborone in August 2013 in which Emmanuel Okwi (brace) and Frank Kalanda settled the fixture 3-0.
Previously, in August 2006, under coach Csaba Laszlo, Cranes drew 0-0 with Botswana at Nakivubo stadium. In a nutshell, like Mulee views the trends in African football, there is a thin line between a win and a defeat.
So, other than Cranes and its fans celebrating that they are guaranteed a place at the 2017 Afcon because of how simple the group looks, that energy would be better placed in preparing to ensure that those games are won.
There are thirteen groups, twelve with four teams and one with three teams (plus the host nation which play friendlies with the three teams).
The group winners and two best overall runner-ups will qualify for the tournament.
When determining the best runners-up, the group of the host nation (where only matches between three teams are counted for the standings) is not considered, as well as any group where only three teams are left due to withdrawal of one team.
Source : The Observer