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Under pressure Okumbi out to save face with Congo calling

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Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.
Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 4- Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi will be out to soak up pressure when the national football team takes on Congo in a 2017 African Cup of Nations Qualifier match at Safaricom Kasarani Stadium on Sunday.

Kenya has nothing to lose in the match having already been bundled out as they have only one point with two matches remaining.

The team will only be playing for pride and for the sake of lifting an otherwise sinking FIFA ranking.

Kenya currently sits at 129th and a win over a 60th placed Congo will be a huge plus in the team’s journey to move off the three-digit ranking.

But Okumbi should not expect an easy ride from a Congo side that is out to win at all cost with a chance still in the periphery to make it to the 2017 Nations Cup to be hosted in Gabon.

Perre Lechantre’s side is placed second in the group on six points, one shy of leaders Guinea Bissau, who host Zambia in the other Group E match.

Only a win will give them hope heading into the final round of matches in September and the Frenchman Lechantre, who won the Nations Cup with Cameroon in 2000, has given his team a target of nothing less than a win.

Congo has been boosted with the return of several foreign based players who missed the last game when the two sides met in Brazzaville in March last year with the match ending 1-1.

One player who will be returning and might make a huge difference is striker Thievy Bifouma.

Congo star player Thievy Bifuoma in training at Kasarani Stadium ahead of the AFCON qualifier clash against Harambee Stars.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.
Congo star player Thievy Bifuoma in training at Kasarani Stadium ahead of the AFCON qualifier clash against Harambee Stars.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

The 24-year old Espanyol striker who spent last season on loan with French side Reims is one of the most feared Congolese forwards.

His speed and finesse in finishing will be a point of concern for the Stars’ backline and his partnership with the lanky Ferebory Dore is expected to be fierce.

In their first training session at the Kasarani Stadium on Friday evening, the team mainly focused on their finishing with most of the attacks being launched from the wings.

Harambee Stars squad training at Utali Ground on Thursday ahead of their AFCON qualifier against Congo.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu.
Harambee Stars squad training at Utali Ground on Thursday ahead of their AFCON qualifier against Congo.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu.

With Jockins Atudo a doubt for the clash, after picking up an injury in training on Friday, Okumbi is expected to hand a starting role to Musa Mohammed on the right-back but the memories of the Gor Mahia center-back man manning that position against Guinea Bissau will not evoke a lot of confidence.

With speed on the wings and strong central attack, Kenya’s defense, marshalled by Zambia based David ‘Calabar’ Owino is expected to have so much on their plate.

At the expense of Bulgaria based Aboud Omar, Okumbi might had a first ever senior team debut to Gor youngster Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma, the 19-year old having impressed in the friendly against Sudan as well as in training.

Harambee Stars skipper Victor Wanyama during training at Utali Grounds.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu.
Harambee Stars skipper Victor Wanyama during training at Utali Grounds.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu.

The biggest battle is expected in midfield where skipper Victor Wanyama, described by coach Lechantre as one of Kenya’s best players will fight for possession with his Congolese counterpart Prince Oniangue, who is Bifouma’s team mate at Reims.

All said and done, Kenyans will stream to the Kasarani Stadium expecting nothing else but a win having been disappointed to two defeats and a similar number of draws on Okumbi’s first four matches in charge.

A loss would only mean Okumbi walks on a landmine which might explode and cost him his job with the rumors of the return of Belgian coach Adel Amrouche getting ever increasingly louder.

Probable starting line-up team to face Congo:

Goalkeeper; Boniface Oluoch.

Defenders; Musa Mohammed, David Owino, Brian Mandela, Erick Ouma.

Midfielders; Victor Wanyama, Teddy Akumu, Eric Johannah, Ayub Timbe, Francis Kahata.

Striker; Michael Olunga.

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