Prepare for more to come

Thursday, September 28th, 2023 02:00 | By
Naomi Eto of Cameroon (L) fights for the ball against Ruth Ingosi of Kenya during 2024 WAFCON Qualifiers 2nd leg match played at The Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi on September 26 2023.PHOTO/RODGERS NDEGWA.

Harambee Starlets coach Beldine Odemba believes the team’s penalty shootout victory against Cameroon in the 2024 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (WAFCON) qualifiers is a statement to silence the critics, who hit out at the team after losing the first leg in Doula.

Despite dominating the second leg and securing a 1-0 victory against the Central Africans, Kenya needed a 4-3 win in penalties to advance to the second round following a 1-1 aggregate draw. Goalkeeper Annedy Kundu was instrumental in saving a crucial penalty before Sheryl Angachi stepped up to score the winning penalty goal to ensure qualification to the second round where they will face Botswana, who defeated Gabon 10-1 on aggregate.

Speaking after the game, an emotional Odemba praised her charges for silencing critics with the victory against the Indomitable Lionesses and promised Kenyans to expect more from the team.

“I am happy that we won today (Tuesday), we went to Cameroon and I was told there was a lot of criticism, I don’t read social media anymore but I am happy my players played according to plan, in Cameroon we lost by a solitary goal we were not intending to lose,” said Odemba, adding: “We opened the game and took it to Cameroon and that was our plan and we got a goal, we could have even scored more goals but we thank God that we won even if it was through penalties.”

Odemba further explained how she motivated the players to overcome the 1-0 first-leg defeat at the Reunification Stadium.

“It is our time we have come from far, we believe, we know that we can do it and it is the only time, I always say experience is not bought in the shop so we are building it slowly and it is coming,” said Odemba, adding: “First of all we believed, and we made the girls believe that it can be done, we have massive talent, we have good girls they know football they are playing well, they are in good teams (those who are playing outside Kenya), we also have good talent here in Kenya and there is no difference, let the girls know they are playing against girls, they are playing against 11 and if they play together as a team they can do it, and they have done it today.”

It was Cynthia Shilwatso who came off the bench to score from a free-kick and level the aggregate scoreline at 1-1 aggregate thus taking the game to penalties. Starlets converted their penalties through Violet Nanjala, Shilwatso, Mwanalima Adam, and Sheryl Angachi while captain Ruth Ingosi saw her effort saved by Cameroon goalkeeper Michaely Bihina. Cameroon converted their penalties through Naomi Eto’o, Toko Njoya, and Jule Ajala while Claudine Falonne’s effort hit the woodwork and goalkeeper Annedy Kundu saved the effort from Shaline Meuiyo.

Starlets will now face Botswana between November 27 and December 5 and the aggregate winner will qualify for next year’s tournament set to be held in Morocco. Kenya will play the first leg at home before travelling away for the return leg in Gaborone.

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