Harambee Stars finally jet out to Mauritius
Harambee Stars have eventually hit the runaway to Mauritius ahead of their participation in the Four-Nations tournament.
The team had to wait until Monday, June 12, 2023, in order to travel after their initial travel plans were hit by a last-minute challenge on Saturday.
Heading to Mauritius on Monday means that the national team will play fewer games than earlier planned; they were scheduled to face Djibouti on Sunday, which could not happen after the travel hiccup occurred.
Mwendwa blames Kenya Airways
Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa blamed Kenya Airways for rescheduling their travel programme after the delay.
The June tournament is meant to prepare the Harambee Stars for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers.
Engin Firat's objectives
Head coach Engin Firat has been trusted to oversee the national side that hopes to qualify for the AFCON after missing the last edition that was held in Cameroon. The last time Kenya were in the continental competition was in 2019 in Egypt, and they were eliminated from the group stage.
A ticket to the World Cup has remained an elusive dream for Harambee Stars, who hope to have proper preparation before engaging in the upcoming qualifiers.
Kenya are just back in the international fold after FIFA lifted the suspension that saw them miss out on the 2023 AFCON qualification process.
Their first engagement after the suspension was lifted was a match against Iran, which they lost by a 2-1 margin despite taking the lead through Michael Olunga.
Muguna and Masoud out
Meanwhile, Firat has trimmed his squad ahead of the tournament that is going on in Mauritius.
Sofapaka goalkeeper Simon Masaka, who earned his debut call-up, is among the players that were dropped as the coach drafted his final 23-man squad. Others who did not make it to the final team are Bandari’s midfielder Mohamed Siraj, Alpha Onyango of Gor Mahia, and Kenya Police’s forward Alvin Mang’eni.
Azam FC’s midfielders Kenneth Muguna, Joseph Okumu of KAA Gent, and Masoud Juma of Difaa El Jadidi will not be available due to injuries.
With Patrick Matasi failing to get a recall, Firat is expected to use Zesco United’s Ian Otieno as his number-one choice. Matasi had been an undisputed first-choice goalkeeper but was dropped after an error that led to a goal during their last friendly against Iran.
Expectations on Michael Olunga
Captain Olunga is expected to lead Kenya’s attacks, while Benson Omala – the FKF Premier League Golden Boot leader - could be his understudy.
Olunga enjoyed a phenomenal campaign with Al Duhail SC in the Qatar Stars League, emerging as the competition’s top scorer as his club also claimed the title.
Therefore, expectations for the former Gor Mahia forward remain high ahead of Kenya’s participation in the Mauritius tournament.
Kakamega Homeboyz’s Moses Shummah could play a peripheral role as he managed to get a slot in the final team after getting his maiden call-up.
Kenya’s first match of the tournament has been scheduled for June 14, and they will take on Pakistan at the Anjalay Coopen Stadium at 3:30 p.m.
Harambee Stars full squad
Goalkeepers: Brian Bwire (Tusker FC), Ian Otieno (Zesco United), and Bryne Omondi (KCB).
Defenders: David Ochieng (Kenya Police), Daniel Sakari (Tusker FC), Collins Sichenje (KUPS), Robinson Kamura (Kakamega Homeboyz), Kevin Luke Otiala (Kariobangi Sharks), Eric Ouma (AIK), Aboud Omar (Kenya Police), and Daniel Anyembe (Viborg FC).
Midfielders: Richard Odada (Philadelphia Union), Boniface Omondi (Gor Mahia), Cliffton Miheso (Kenya Police), Abdallah Hassan (Bandari FC), Amos Ndondi (Ararat), Anthony Akumu (Sagan Tosu), Charles Ouma (Kenya Police), Joseph Mwangi (Nzoia Sugar), and Victor Omune (AFC Leopards).
Forwards: Michael Olunga (Al Duhail), Benson Omalla (Gor Mahia), Moses Shummah (Kakamega Homeboyz)