The knock out stage of the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Senior Challenge rolls on today as hosts Harambee Stars take on Burundi’s Intamba Muragamba on the artificial surface of Kisumu’s Moi Stadium from 3pm.
Both teams play the first semi-final match with eyes trained on a place in Sunday’s final whose winner stands to pocket Sh6 million. The second semi-final between defending champions Uganda and surprise package Zanzibar will also be held at the same venue but 24 hours later.
Kenya and Burundi’s last meeting ended in a one-all stalemate two years ago when Harambee Stars ceded the CECAFA title in Ethiopia. Both teams share similar statistics of a win, a draw and a loss each in only four meetings on record, meaning that today’s match could go either way.
Stakes will be high for Kenya as the new coach Paul Put strives to impress and give his employers Football Kenya Federation (FKF) some latitude following heavy criticism from dejected fans who were not satisfied with the team’s performance during their group matches where they only managed three goals in four matches.
Kenya passed through Group A unscathed, winning twice and drawing twice without conceding against Tanzania, Libya, Zanzibar and Rwanda. Burundi on the other hand won once and drew twice in Group B, scoring four times and conceding once from a penalty kick.
After an eye-catching goalless draw with Uganda, Burundi went ahead to thump Ethiopia 4-1 then eased into semi-finals with another scoreless draw with minnows South Sudan.
Both Kenya and Burundi will go for each other’s jugular in today’s tie with the hosts wary of Pierre Kwizera, Cedrick Urasenga and Steve Nahimana in Burundi’s team.
The trio notched a goal a piece during Ethiopia’s rout before they were rested in the less intense encounter with South Sudan to prepare for their semis fixture. Kenya on the other hand have scored twice from open play since the tournament kicked off and coach Paul Put has deployed three different players to spearhead the attack.
Masoud Juma started for Stars in the opening two matches scoring from the spot during the 2-0 win over Rwanda. Kepha Aswani started the third group match having only appeared as a sub in the first two.
Both strikers failed to find the net from open play. Third choice striker Vincent Oburu staked claim for more engagement in first team duties when he reacted faster to poke home against Tanzania.