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Firat: I’ve identified Harambee Stars players for WC qualifiers

Monday, August 7th, 2023 09:40 | By
Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat during a training session. PHOTO/Print
Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat during a training session. PHOTO/Print

Kenya national football team Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat says he has a clear picture of the players he will use in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and other official matches in the near future, but noting there is no more room for ‘risks’.

The Turkish coach has revealed that his first stint that saw him take charge of Harambee Stars previous in four World Cup Qualifying games in 2021 and the recent friendly matches against Iran, Mauritius and Pakistan have given him a glimpse of a base to work with for amelioration in the next matches of great significance to the nation.

“When I started with Kenya, I did not have an overview about the players because it is not only about their quality, it is also about their motivation, attitude and how they can play under pressure in international matches and this needed time to think which players fit in my thoughts.

“There will be a lot of changes before the next camp because I think I gave a lot of players a chance to show themselves in the camp and even in matches and those ones that took the opportunities to prove themselves will stay.

“I now have a base of players where I know and from now it will be only a few talents who will come and have a chance to show themselves, it will be like before, for example, in Mauritius, when we had more than 15 players from the local clubs. Therefore, from now on, we have to focus on the official matches and to be ready,” Firat told People Daily Sport.

Since his first game in-charge against Mali 21-months ago, coach Firat has given out opportunities to more than 20 new and equally young players to show their football prowess at the senior national team set up with an aim of finding solutions for the future.

Some of the new faces that have been added to the fold in his tenure includes youngsters Timothy Ouma, Alwyn Tera, Anthony Wambani, Amos Nondi, Wilkings Ochieng, Daniel Anyembe, Hassan Beja, Simon Masaka, Byrne Omondi, Benson Omalla, Victor Omune, Joseph Mwangi, Charles Ouma and Moses Shummah.

“To make it clear also, my eyes are always open and whenever we see somebody who can help the team it does not matter from which club or which area or age, if he has support from media or club or not, I don’t care, if he believes that he can help the national team the door is always open to this kind of players.

"You never know in the next few months who can be introduced in the national team because I have said it before in Kenya you never know what you can find the next day and I think Moses Shummah is one of these examples.

"When I saw him (Moses) I directly invited him and he used his chance well, now everybody is talking about him and you think three months before his call up no one knew his name.” Firat added.

Harambee Stars has been paired to play against two-time African Champions and next year’s AFCON hosts Ivory Coast in Group F of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers. The other opponents in Kenya’s group include Gabon, Gambia, Burundi and Seychelles.

Whilst stakes are high in the qualification campaign, local football aficionados are hopeful that the national team will make amends on previous mistakes and give a good account of themselves in the quest for a maiden World Cup appearance.

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