By Lewis Njeruh
Thumbnail Photo courtesy of Facebook/Harambee Stars.
Kenya will play Mali in the World Cup Qualifiers Qatar 2022 on Thursday, October 7th at the Stade Adrar Stadium, Morocco at 10pm.
Mali is at the top Group E with four points, two points ahead of Kenya and Uganda. Rwanda is at the bottom of the table with one point after drawing with Kenya in the second round of the qualifiers.
Kenya will play Mali in the return leg on Sunday, October 10th at the Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi at 4pm.
This is the first assignment for newly appointed Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat. He is expected to come up with a strategy; all eyes are keen to see if Firat will use a strategy by his predecessor Kimanzi and Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee.
Firat firmly believes that Kenya will feature in the coming World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
“First of all, we have to see the other players who will be here because some of them may be injured. Of course, we have good players here, some of them are young. I am very hopeful because I believe in young players,” he said.
Kenya will play without former Tottenham Hotspur and AFC leopards star Victor Wanyama who retired from international football after former head coach Mulee dropped him from team leadership. Stars will also lack FKF premier league Golden Clove winner and Ulinzi Stars goalkeeper James Saruni, Kariobangi Sharks defender Samuel Olwande and midfielder Pattillah Omoto, Wazito youngster Musa Masika, Gor Mahia defender Frank Odhiambo, Bandari’s Keagan Ndemi and KCB Reagan Otieno and Ovella Ochieng after being dropped by Firat in the final squad.
KAA Gent Joseph Okumu, Simba SC Joash Onyango, David Owino Odhiambo and AIK Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma will bring experience to the Stars’ defense.
Red Star midfielder Richard Odada who impressed in the match against Uganda is expected take the defensive midfielder task and cushion the back four.
Tanzania- based Azam Fc Kenneth Muguna will collaborate with Sofapaka skipper Lawrence Juma in the midfielder axis and help open the stubborn defence creating chances for the attacks. The midfielders will be helped by Ismael Gonzalez, Duke Abuya, Boniface Muchiri, Phillip Mayaka and Abdalla Hassan.
Tusker FC 18-year-old youngster Eric Zakayo was among the final 25-man squad and is expected to be a key player in the second half of the match against Mali.
Mali head coach Mohamed Magassouba is keen on getting maximum points against Kenya.
Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma, Southampton Moussa Djenepo, Lens Massadio Haidara and Al Ahly Aliou Dieng will be offering their experience to The Eagles.
Pressure still remains on the Mali team who have only scored twice in their last five fixtures. Kenya on the other hand is unbeaten in their last six fixtures.
List of players in the Engin Firat final 25-man squad
Goalkeepers: Ian Otieno, Brian Bwire, Faruk Shikhalo
Defenders: Joseph Okumu, Joash Onyango, David Owino, Johnstone Omurwa, Eugene Asike, Daniel Sakari, David Owino Ambulu, Abud Omar, Eric Ouma, Bolton Omwenga.
Midfielders: Richard Odada, Lawrence Juma, Ismael Gonzalez, Kenneth Muguna, Duke Abuya, Boniface Muchiri, Eric Zakayo, Phillip Mayaka, Abdalla Hassan.
Forwards: Michael Olunga, Henry Meja, Eric Kapaito