Uganda’s U20 side, the Hippos, will hope to put their best foot forward when the 2017 Africa Youth Championship qualifiers take centre stage across the continent at the weekend.

Coach Kefa Kisala’s side travelled to Rwanda for their clash against the hosts in the capital Kigali this Saturday and they will be intent on drawing first blood in this first round fixture.

The two countries are not ignorant of each other in footballing terms. Just last year, Uganda’s U-23 team, the Kobs, beat Rwanda home and away in the second round of the 2016 Rio Olympic qualifiers.

The Kobs were, however, ejected by Egypt in the succeeding round.

The year before, Uganda’s U-17 outfit, the Cubs, also defeated the junior Wasps of Rwanda 7-2 on aggregate in the 2015 continental qualifiers.

Coach Kisala will hope for more of the same on Saturday but will have to do it without some of his first choice players.

Eric Kibowa, Frank Tumwesigye and Bashir Asiku – part of the previous national Cubs side that was eliminated by Zambia – all failed to honour Kisala’s invitation yet are widely expected to turn out for St. Mary’s Kitende in their Copa Coca Cola schools’ qualifiers.

But not all is lost for Kisala. The former Uganda Cranes international will count on striker Edrisa Lubega, who has scored 18 goals from as many games for Big League side Proline, to get the Hippos going.

Vipers central defender Halid Lwalirwa will skipper the team while KCCA’s Yasin Mugume – now on loan at Proline – and Emmanuel Olinga should offer tenacity and grit in the middle of the park for Uganda.

Rayon Sports’ Kevin Muhire and Jean Baptiste Rugamba of Vision FC will worry the Hippos.

U-20 2017 Africa Youth Championship qualifiers

First leg, Saturday, April 2

Rwanda vs Uganda

Return leg

April 22-24

Hippos squad

Saidi Keni, James Ahebwa, Umar Mukobe, Hassan Musana, Ronald Nkonge, Halidi Lwaliwa, Geoffrey Wasswa, Emma Olinga, Julius Poloto, Shafiq Kagimu, Musitafa Mujuzi, Nicholas Kagaba, Sophas Kaweke, Yasin Mugume, Alfred Lekku, Edrisa Lubega, Azake Luboyera, Joseph Ssemujju, Daniel Shabena, Martin Kizza


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