NAIROBI, Kenya, February 22- With a week before Harambee Stars face Togo in a 2013 Africa Nations Cup first leg knock-out round qualifier, head coach Francis Kimanzi believes his side is yet to evolve into a forceful unit due to inadequate training time.
“Well, the progress has been slow since it has been a huge task for the same players to honour league matches so most of the time we have had an uneven number which makes it more difficult in tactical preparation.
“But equally, we have made some progress, I don’t believe it is enough, it can never be enough, I would have preferred to have all the prayers around but it is not possible. With the few days we have been working we have managed to scored five training sessions in two weeks but it is not enough,” Kimanzi said at Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani where the team has been based in the past fortnight.
Stars welcome Togo, led by in form English Premier League Tottenham striker, Emmanuel Adebayor at Nyayo National Stadium next Wednesday hoping to craft a home leg advantage to take to Lome next month with the aggregate winner qualifying for the next qualifier knock-outs in June.
Thus far, the coach has had to contend with lack of his complete set of local based call-ups in camp due to domestic and continental club fixtures with the overseas players expected to start arriving on Saturday at the earliest.
On Wednesday, the Kenyan Premier League ruled to defer three Sunday fixtures with players in the national team to give Kimanzi and his technical bench more time with the squad with the coach also contending the time he will spend with his overseas based call-ups before the match as insufficient.
“I hope they will arrive on time since most of them are playing on the (February) 25th and 26th. It’s a busy schedule but the federation with the logistics to see whether we can fly him in on Saturday and Sunday,” he expressed.
Kimanzi however, stressed limited time with his players was not his way of sending in the excuses early in case Kenya prolong their major tournament drought by failing to get a result against Togo.
“It makes the game more interesting when they bring in the big players, it is very good for us when we play them at home and it is very good for the mental aspect of our players.
“I prefer playing a team of that magnitude as opposed to playing a team you know none of the players since psychologically, you lose a lot in terms of the mental strength,” he assessed.
Kimanzi who was re-appointed as head coach following public clamour at the back end of last year after being sacked in 2009 was quick to cool the high expectations placed on the team by none other by the country’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and Football Kenya Limited boss, Sam Nyamweya.
“It is always a dream of anyone to see a team in a big tournament but what is important for me is the qualifier. My Cup of Nations, be it World Cup starts on Wednesday, that is our World Cup match , that is our Nations Cup match.”
On Tuesday night during the official unveiling of the Sh110m ($1.34m) three-year sponsorship deal for the team by beer firm, Kenya Breweries, Nyamweya boldly stated the side had the means to qualify for the 2013 Nations Cup and 2014 World Cup in Brazil with the Premier echoing the same.
The coach refused to be drawn into the fate of Arnold Origi, the Norway based FK Moss keeper on loan at Fredrikstad who announced his shock international retirement last month at 28 having been the first choice custodian for the side.
“I prefer to talk about the players who are arriving and the preparations. We already have three keepers in camp,” he added.
The coach is pleased the fulcrum of his side playing overseas, French side AJ Auxerre striker Denis Oliech, the Stars captain and the Wanyama midfield brothers of Serie A Parma AC, MacDonald Mariga and Scottish giants Celtic Victor Mugubi are getting enough game time for their sides.
“They are making steps in developing themselves by having more playing time. The maturity they are getting will help a lot and the experience they will bring to the side when we play the big match at home; we need them to inject the calmness and confidence needed.”
Players in camp: Duncan Ochieng, Patrick Matasi, Anthony Kimani, Mulinge Ndeto, Pascal Ochieng (assistant captain), James Situma, Dennis Odhiambo, Yusuf Juma, Osborne Monday, Peter Atsango, Bernard Mangoli, Rama Salim, Humphrey Mieno, Jamal Mohammed, Collins Okoth, Kevin Ochieng, Kelvin Serenge, Enock Agwanda, Bob Mugalia and Allan Wanga.