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Stars out on Zebra hunt in Gaborone

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 8- Harambee Stars leave for Gaborone on Tuesday morning to face the Zebras of Botswana in an international friendly.

The team consisting 18 players is scheduled to depart at 7am to face the first nation to seal qualification for next year’s Africa Nations Cup co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon on Wednesday.

“We are taking this match seriously and I’m very glad that most of the players who are here for this game will be used at our next nations cup qualifiers against Guinea Bissau,” Stars head coach, Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno said on Monday.

Inter Milan midfielder, McDonald Mariga and Jerry Santo from Tanzania Simba SC were the only players called-up for the match who had not arrived for Monday evening’s training session at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.

The pair was scheduled to turn up in the country Monday night in time for the team’s flight to Botswana.

AJ Auxerre striker, Dennis Oliech, did not also feature in the pre-departure training after he was given leave to rest in the team hotel upon checking-in to the country from France.

“These players had games yesterday and we gave them the permission to arrive late and in the case of Oliech, to rest,” said Otieno.

The tactician hailed his opponents saying, “We had several offers to play us in this international friendly window but we chose Botswana since they have already qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations and they are a stronger opponent to gauge ourselves with.”

“If we play well against them, we will have tested ourselves properly since we are trying to come out of the perception we cannot win away. We played well in Angola and the players are confident and it’s only a matter of time before we start winning away matches.”

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Otieno said he had nothing against the players he had dropped from the side saying, “As a coach you try to get the best players at that particular time. When I decide not to call you in the team, I don’t think I have any malice.

“It’s only because as a coach and as a country we need results and if somebody does not bring results then there is no need to bring him to the team. We only bring in players whose form is good.”

Czech based winger, Patrick Oboya and Allan Wanga, the Azerbaijan based striker are among the high profile players who have featured in recent Stars squads who did not get the invite for the Zebras tie.

Keeper Arnold Origi, who plies his trade for FK Moss, was delighted on his return to the national side after missing the away qualifier to Angola due to injury.

“It’s always a pleasure to play for the national team; we have to do our best since it is an important match considering our rankings. Botswana are a good team so it’s going to be tough match and an exciting one and good preparations against Guinea Bissau.”

Origi expressed there was still hope of the country featuring in the 2012 Nations Cup despite lying third in Group J six points adrift of leaders Uganda.

“The next two games are very important if we qualify or not since the World Cup qualifiers will follow soon and we need to build momentum.”

Kenya will play Guinea Bissau next month before travelling to Kampala to wrap their Nations Cup qualifying quest.

After that, the team will travel to Seychelles for a 2014 World Cup play-off on November 11 before facing the same side four days later where the winners of the two-legged tie will be pooled against Nigeria, Malawi and the victor between the other knock-out match between Djibouti and Namibia.

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Goal Keepers– Arnold Origi (FK Moss/Sweden), Jerim Onyango (Gor Mahia)

Defenders– Edgar Ochieng (Sofapaka), Pascal Ochieng (Posta Rangers), James Situma (KF Tirana/Albania), Eric Masika (Gor Mahia), Dennis Odhiambo (Tuks FC/Pretoria), Anthony Kimani (Mathare United)

Midfielders– Jamal Mohammed (FCM Targu Mures/Romania), Titus Mulama (Sofapaka), McDonald Mariga (Inter Milan/Italy), Jerry Santo (Simba SC/Tanzania), Kevin Ochieng (Gor Mahia), Victor Mugubi (Celtic/Scotland)

Strikers– Dennis Oliech (AJ Auxerre/France), Mike Baraza (AFC Leopards), Bob Mugalia (Sofapaka), Joseph Nyaga (Mathare United)

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