Having held Egypt’s Pharaohs to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier last year, Kenya’s Harambee Stars are looking to topple the North African giants at home when the two sides meet in the penultimate qualifier in Nairobi on Thursday.
Kenya sits third in Group G with three points and their only hope of qualification is twin victories against Egypt and Togo. Victory over the Mo Salah-led Egypt on Thursday will put Harambee Stars’ campaign and hopes back on track.
“We know it is going to be a very tough match because Egypt is one of the best teams in the continent with good and talented individual players. We know that in history we have never beaten Egypt, but this is football. Who says there can never be a first time for something?” coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee said looking ahead to the match.
The tactician says his team is focused to ensure they get something off the match, noting that they have not given up on vying for a place in Cameroon.
“We are still in contention for qualification and we will not relent until the final game. We are playing at home and we should give 100pc to ensure that we get a good result,” he added.
The tactician has omitted some big name players who have been part of the squad for a long time. Among those overlooked for selection include regular skipper Victor Wanyama, Turkey based midfielder Johannah Omollo, Sweden-based Eric Omondi and speedy winger Ayub Timbe who has recently moved to Japan.
“We selected players based on their current form and we looked at those who will be ready for such a big game. The door is still open for any player but we will only be going with players who are performing at the moment,” the coach said.
In Wanyama’s absence, Mulee has settled on striker Michael Olunga to captain the team against Egypt. Olunga missed the last two qualifiers against Comoros due to travel restrictions relating to COVID-19 at his former address in Japan.
The striker who was instrumental in the last qualification in 2019 was greatly missed against Comoros where Kenya drew at home and lost away to practically put their qualification hopes in jeopardy.
The striker is however ready to step up on Thursday and lead from the front, literally, as Kenya looks to make history.
“It is a huge honour to be given this challenge to lead the national team and definitely I want to step up and give my best. We know we are coming up against a very tough team but we have psyched ourselves up knowing that we still stand a chance and we will fight to get a win,” said the talisman.
Kenya’s hope of qualification will be pegged on the results posted by Egypt and Comoros in their final match, only if they beat the seven-time African champions on home soil on Thursday.