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Toughen up, Egypt coach challenges Starlets

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Harambee Starlets midfielder Christine Nafula controls the ball under pressure from Egypt's Michelle Habiba during their friendly match on October 28 in Nairobi. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya
Harambee Starlets midfielder Christine Nafula controls the ball under pressure from Egypt’s Michelle Habiba during their friendly match on October 28 in Nairobi. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31- Ahead of their debut at the Africa Cup of Nations (AWCON) in November, Egyptian national women’s football team head coach Mohammed Mostafa has challenged Harambee Starlets to build their physical stature.

Mostafa whose side was beaten 1-0 by Starlets in a friendly match at the Kasarani Stadium last Friday, said he was impressed with the Kenyan side but warned them if they don’t improve physically they might be in line for a tough AWCON, especially against West African sides.

“They (Kenya) play very well. They are organized technically and tactically and pass the ball very well. Their style is just like ours but one thing I noticed is that they are not very physical. I watched their game against Cameroon and you could see when the Cameroonians started playing physically it became hard for them,” Mostafa told Capital Sport.

“At Cup of Nations, they will be facing West African countries who are physical. I feel that if they improve in this, then they will be able to compete well with the rest. Apart from that, I think they are a good team,” the tactician added.

Starlets head coach David Ouma has disclosed he will be taking the remaining three weeks of training to build up the physical state of the team, with his eyes fixed on a semi-final slot at AWCON.

-Neddy, Enez blow-

The tactician says he is impressed with how much his girls have grown over the last three months, but admits missing two key players in Neddy Atieno and Enez Mango will be a huge blow for him.

Mango will be unavailable due to job commitments with her employer Google, while Atieno has started military training with the Kenya Defense Forces at the Recruit Training School in Eldoret.

“Missing these two players is a huge blow because they have been with us every step of the way in preparation. We tried everything to secure them but it became impossible. We will have to work with replacements and with three weeks remaining, there’s enough time to work out a cover,” Ouma said.

Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma shouts instructions from the touchline during the team's friendly match against Egypt on October 28 in Nairobi. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya
Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma shouts instructions from the touchline during the team’s friendly match against Egypt on October 28 in Nairobi. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

-Team improved-

 “As a team we have improved so much and in terms of fitness of the players, I am more than happy with what we have. It is true we lack a bit in terms of physicality but it is an issue we will address. I can confidently say that at this moment we are ready for the Cup of Nations.”

The team is expected to resume training on Tuesday evening at Kasarani after a three day break which was also used to do medical tests on all the players. Their next assignment will be a final friendly against AWCON hosts Cameroon in Limbe on November 6.

The coach hopes the Ministry of Sports will approve its budget to allow them stay over in Limbe until the Nations Cup which kicks off on November 19.

“We are playing the friendly in the city of Limbe which is where we will play our group matches. It is a town in the seaside with a different altitude and weather to Nairobi. It will be very vital for us if we can get to remain there after the friendly so that the girls can acclimatize,” Ouma offered.

The team is expected to travel out on Friday by when Ouma is expected to have named his final squad of 21 for the Nations Cup.

Kenya which is pooled in Group D with holders Nigeria, Mali and Ghana begin their campaign against the Black Queens of Ghana on November 20 at the 20,000-seater Omnisport Stadium.

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