The Eagles of Mali started their Group E campaign in the 2022 FIFA World Qualifiers with a 1-0 win over Rwanda at Grand Stade d’Agadir in Morocco on Wednesday evening.
They dominated the game which was moved to Morocco as Mali lacked approval of a home stadium.
Mohamed Magassouba’s men dominated the game and created the most dangerous chances from the start.
The Eagles had an early chance to take the lead when Moussa Djenepo was fouled inside the Rwandan area after 18 minutes.
From the penalty kick spot, Djenepo tried to score himself but was stopped by Rwanda goalkeeper Emery Mvuyekure.
Mali however took the lead a couple of minutes later, when Adama Traore put the Eagles ahead after 20 minutes.
Rwanda Amavubi tried to find the equaliser, but were stopped by Mali’s defence line and goalkeeper Ibrahim Mounkoro.
After the break, Mali were still the side with more chances, but both teams failed to score as the Eagles bagged their first points of the campaign.
Kenya take on Uganda in the other Group E game in Nairobi on Thursday in what is expected to be a hotly-contested derby.
Matches between the two sides have often than not been explosive and it will be no different when they start the journey towards Qatar 2022 at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Uganda’s head coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic will be making his first competitive appearance on the dugout since returning for his second stint as the Cranes head coach.
The coach is confident that in spite of handling a team on transition, he has enough in the gas to pocket three points away from home.
“We respect Kenya as a team and as a nation but we are here to fight and ensure we get a good result. This will be a match that will test the character of my players and there is a lot at stake.
“It will be more difficult because you are playing against a team and players that know you and you know them,” Micho said.
He added: “We are playing a very good and competitive team and they have an advantage because most of their players have been active in leagues while ours has been on recess.
“It will be a match that will be decided on small details and I hope that the small details go our way.”
The last time “Micho” played against the Harambee Stars was in October in a friendly match while with Zambia, with the game ending 2-1 in favour of the Harambee Stars.
The Serbian tactician hopes that his return to Nairobi will be a happier one this time around.
Meanwhile, Harambee Stars coach Jacob “Ghost” Mulee is a man who knows Micho and Uganda inside out.
He has worked for a long time as a pundit and FIFA Instructor over the 10 years he was out of coaching.
“I know Micho very well because he has been in the continent for long. He has a very good CV as a coach and definitely it will be tough against him.
“But this is football and it is the 90 minutes on the pitch that will decide,” Mulee said.
He added: “Uganda have a very good team and this being a derby, they will definitely want to carry the bragging rights. As a team we have prepared well and everyone is looking forward to giving a good account of themselves.”
The last three meetings between the two sides have ended in draws, all coming off friendly matches.
The other competitive meetings between the two sides have come off at the CECAFA Senior Challenge.
But the biggest was in October 2011 when Kenya held the Ugandans to a 0-0 draw in Kampala, denying them a chance of progressing to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Both sides will be keen to pick a positive result on Thursday as Kenya are headed to Rwanda for their second match against hosts Amavubi while Uganda are home against Mali.