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Amrouche confident despite Stars’ setbacks

STARS-FANS-2NAIROBI, Kenya, August 1- Harambee Stars will have to overcome a week from hell to overhaul Lesotho and qualify for the final group phase of 2015 Afcon qualifiers on Sunday in Nairobi.

For starters, uncertainty hangs over the match venue itself, key foreign based players have had their clubs refuse to part with them and above all, the debilitating one-year CAF ban handed on Belgian, head coach Adel Amrouche have conspired to stack odds firmly against the hosts who are trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Maseru.

The challenge for Stars is to at least muster a 2-0 win to progress but that looks improbable after a chaotic build-up that has all but extinguished their chances even before a ball is kicked in anger.

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) earlier stated the match would be hosted at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium only to change the venue to Nyayo National Stadium which they later learnt was booked on Sunday.

Frantic meetings between FKF and Sports Stadia Management Board took place Friday to resolve a potentially embarrassing deadlock as the inept organisation within the federation ranks resurfaced.

Stars camp has been hit by major blow after major blow, the latest news that dependable foreign based players would miss the crunch due to clubs commitment and injury leaving the head coach and his technical staff scrambling to piece a squad together.

Recalled AC Ajaccio forward Dennis Oliech, joins the list of Lillestrome custodian Arnold Origi and Racing Genk winger Ayub Timbe denied permission by their outfits since the fixture falls outside the FIFA calendar.

Belgian side Lommel United midfielder Johanna Omolo could not make the trip after being sidelined for three weeks with injury.

That left Amrouche red-faced alleging the players simply did not fight hard enough for release since the fixture was crucial for their nation’s immediate international future.

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“The players could have done more to encourage their clubs to release them just like David Ochieng who told his club he must play the crucial game same as Peter Opiyo despite being new he met with the club’s chairman and explained the importance of the match and they were released,” he explained.

The Algerian born added they tried their best to have the players released and air tickets were sent to them in good time.

“For Timbe, his coach was complicated, I sent him a message because I know him personally but he did not give a positive response, Oliech was denied permission by his club’s president because he prolonged his holiday by a week.”

Amrouche confident

Despite the absence of the key players, Amrouche exuded confidence in the 34 man provisional squad, but urged them to give their all and make the nation proud by qualifying to the Group stage.

“We did one mistake in Lesotho by conceding the goal but we have rectified. Going to Sunday’s match, we must be aggressive and determined.

“We don’t want to gamble, we must score goals because the match is like a final to us and we should make good use of home advantage to silence Lesotho,” he told.

With captain Victor Mugubi expected in the country Saturday, a day before the match, his elder brother Macdonald Mariga linked up with former MC Algiers forward Edwin Lavatsa, KF Tirana based Francis Kahata, Christian Bwamy, Lawrence Olum, Jamal Mohammed and South African based duo of David Gateri and winger Paul Were in camp Friday.

“I’m not happy because we started with six foreign players and now they are not here but I have confidence the ones I have will deliver.

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“We have enough experience in the team the likes of Mariga whom we have helped to regain fitness after staying out for more than two years and he has told me he is 100 percent fit,” the coach declared.

In the absence of Origi, Bandari custodian Wilson Obungu will start in goal and was upbeat to inspire the team to victory.

“I’m ready for the assignment, the absence of Origi doesn’t mean there is a vacuum, this is a chance to prove myself but most important is we qualify,” Obungu added.

Stars will be looking to dominate in the midfield and Opiyo called upon fans to turn up and rally behind them.

“We are well prepared and focused in the game, the unity in camp is marvellous come Sunday we don’t expect miracle to happen but we will have to rely on ourselves and work hard like what we did in Cecafa.”

Lesotho arrived in the country Friday ahead of the clash that will see 28,000 tickets printed with VIP retailing at Sh1, 000 while terraces will sell at Sh200.

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