Kenya lands Uganda, Rwanda and Mali in qualifiers for Qatar 2022 tournament
Kenya’s elusive quest to reach the pinnacle of world football begins anew with the completion of CAF group stage draws in Cairo, Egypt last night.
Harambee Stars will slug it out with CECAFA counterparts Uganda and Rwanda and West Africa nation Mali for a chance to play in the final round of the CAF qualifies.
Kenya are in Group E of the qualifiers courtesy of high continental ranking that saw Harambee Stars given a bye from the first round.
The draw pits Kenya against familiar opponents in Rwanda and Uganda who have both raised their football standards in recent times, Mali standing out as the team with X-Factor.
Kenya is the third seed in the group and made it to the group from Pot 3 of CAF bracketing.
Mali, who are the top seed, were in Pot 1 with Uganda as second seeds while Rwanda are the lowest seeds in the group.
The group is, however, open for any enterprising team to grab as none of the teams have played in the FIFA World Cup finals.
The highly-ranked Mali was the only team in Pot 1 not to have participated in the World Cup finals, a precedence that should offer Francis Kimanzi and Football Kenya Federation (FKF) hope going into the qualifiers.
CAF came up with a three-round plan to get five teams representing the continent in Qatar. The first round involved 28 of the lowest ranked teams in Africa on a two-leg fixture that saw 14 teams parachuted to the group draws.
The 26 highest ranked nation, Kenya included, were exempted from the opening round.
Winners of the 10 groups will proceed to the third and final round of the qualifiers in which a two-leg fixture played home and away will produce five winners heading to Qatar.
Kenya will play her first game against Uganda while top seeds Mali play Rwanda in their opener on October 5 this year while the final matches of the round are slated for October 2021.
FKF had set a target of qualifying for the Qatar bonanza by setting up youth structures running from Under 13 all the way to the Olympics age of Under-23. The federation will hence be focusing energy towards this qualification and the group looks fair enough for Kenya to progress.
Kenya and neighbours Uganda have always evened out in football contests despite Uganda maintaining a high FIFA ranking while Rwanda, the lowest seed, more often come short when engaged in a duel with Kenya.
The landlocked nation has, however, made big football strides and will go toe-to-toe with the rest of group members.
Kimanzi will have to do his homework on Mali before leading his charges against the West Africans.