NAIROBI, October 7 – Harambee Stars head coach, Bobby Williamson has faith in his squad despite three utility foreign based players opting out of their Wednesday 2018 World Cup qualifier opener away to Mauritius.
Defenders, David ‘Calabar’ Owino and South Africa based center-back Brian Mandela became the latest to be ruled out of the first leg tie after Football Kenya Federation failed to send them air tickets to link up with the squad in Port Louis.
The duo joins Norway’s Lillestrome custodian, Arnold Origi who opted out on the eve of the match after alleging a calculated plot to edge him out of the team as the reason behind his absence.
“I believe in the players that I have and we have a lot of young players in this country but some of them are not just ready yet. I have observed them in the KPL and if we train them, they will score goals and win football matches,” the Scotsman who will be seeking his first competitive win, said.
Williamson, who had hoped to have 21 players at his disposal, will have to change his game plan after only four foreign based players led by skipper and Southampton midfielder, Victor Wanyama turned up.
Gor Mahia shot-stopper, Boniface Oluoch who has 22 clean sheets in the SportPesa Premier League is expected to replace Origi in goal with Sofapaka’s David Okello who earned his debut sitting on the bench as reserve.
AFC Leopards’ Edwin Wafula who missed Zambia 2-1 loss in the 2017 Africa Nations Cup qualifier, is likely to fill in Owino’s void on the right as Gor’s Harun Shakava who also sat out against Chipolopolo set to come on for Mandela.
Thika United left-back, Dennis Odhiambo will be out to retain his position as returnee, Abdul Latif Omar of Bandari sits on the bench.
Williamson will have depth in midfield after the comeback of Sudan based Anthony Akumu who is expected to partner with Wanyama and Johanna Omolo as Timbe and Nakuru All Stars manage the flanks.
K’Ogalo lethal forward Michael Olunga and Azam’s Allan Wanga are set to lead the attack.
Stars enter the clash as favourites since Mauritius are yet to win a match in their previous five meetings where Kenya have won three and drawn two with their last encounter coming in1981.
However, Williamson will need not to underrate the underdogs who are ranked 161, 37 places below Stars who dropped 15 places on the latest FIFA rankings.
Kenya U-20 that included Shakava beat Mauritius 4-0 in the COSAFA Youth Cup in 2013 when the tournament was held in Lesotho.
Mauritius that is under the tutelage of Frenchman Alain Happe who has been in charge of four games will enter the match at the back of a 1-0 win over visitors Mozambique in their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
On the other hand, Stars go into the match after going down 2-1 to Zambia at home in the same continental qualifiers.
Harambee Stars probable line-up
Starting XI: Boniface Oluoch (GK), Edwin Wafula, Harun Shakava, David Ochieng, Dennis Odhiambo, Victor Wanyama, Anthony Akumu, Johanna Omollo, Ayub Timbe, John Ndirangu, Michael Olunga.
Subs: David Okello (GK), Eric Johanna, Musa Mohamed, Kelvin Amwayi, John Nairuka, Abdulatif Omar, Steven Wakhanya, Allan Wanga.