(BBC) The 2015 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup opened with Burundi beating Zanzibar 1-0 in the first match of the tournament as hosts Ethiopia then suffered a 1-0 defeat to Rwanda.
Didier Kavumbagu netted a 39th minute goal to give Burundi the Group B victory in the competition’s opener at the Addis Ababa Stadium.
After failing to qualify for the group stage of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Burundi made amends with a strong start to the regional tournament.
The second game on Saturday featured the hosts Ethiopia who lost 1-0 to Rwanda in Group A.
A solitary goal from Jacques Tuyisenge was enough to give Rwanda the victory.
On Sunday the defending champions Kenya will face Uganda in another Group B match, with Uganda aiming to win the title for a record 14th time.
Uganda last won the trophy in 2012 but are are considered favourites to win this year’s tournament, which takes place from 21 November to 5 December in Ethiopia.
The Cranes are the only team in the Council for East and Central African Football Association region to qualify for the group stage of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
And they are one of only three Cecafa finalists – alongside Ethiopia and Rwanda – to have qualified for the 2016 African Nations Championship.
Uganda coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic is in confident mood ahead of Sunday’s clash against Kenya.
“We are not under pressure but we are hungry to perform well in this tournament because we are also using it to prepare the boys for the 2016 Africa Nations Championship,” he told BBC Sport.
2015 Cecafa Cup groups
Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Somalia
Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Zanzibar
Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Malawi
Attacking midfielder Farouk Miya, who netted three goals when Cranes ejected Togo in the World Cup qualifier, is equally optimistic.
“Winning the trophy would be a perfect Christmas gift for Ugandans and we shall work hard to achieve that,” he told BBC Sport.
Sredojevic has added two professional players to his squad, Brian Umony (St George, Ethiopia) and defender Murushid Juuko, who features for SC Simba in the Vodacom Tanzania Premier League.
And Uganda’s hopes have also been boosted by the likelihood that Kenya may be suffering the after-effects of a payments row and chaotic travel preparations before their recent trip to Cape Verde where they were eliminated from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Kenya coach Bobby Williamson, who previously led Uganda to four Cecafa Cup titles, has already suffered disappointment in four tournaments this year.
“We are now looking forward to having a great run in the Cecafa championships as we prepare for Nations Cup qualifying matches. It is what we can look for and hope to do better,” Williamson said.
“Uganda are a strong team – not because they have the tournament more times than any other team, but they arrive in Addis Ababa with their heads high after qualifying into the next round of the 2018 World Cup.”
In Group B Tanzania will play Somalia in the second match on Sunday – after Uganda play Kenya.
Malawi will play as a guest team, and are drawn in Group C alongside Djibouti, Sudan and South Sudan.
The top two teams from each group, plus the best two third place finishers, will qualify for the quarter finals.
Meanwhile, Sudan’s Dr. Jaffer Mutasim has been elected Cecafa president, taking over the role from Tanzania’s Leodegar Tenga who stepped down after two terms of four years each in office.
Mutasim polled six votes, while Uganda’s Lawrence Mulindwa was second with three votes. Ethiopia Football Association president Juneid Bashar Tilmo pulled out of the race.