NAIROBI, Kenya, June 6- Harambee Stars produced a stellar show to see off Congo on Sunday, an eye-catching performance that has not been synonymous with the team in a long time.
Though non-consequential as far as the 2017 African Cup of Nations Qualification is concerned, the victory did a lot of good in lifting the team’s morale as well as have an effect on the country’s FIFA ranking.
Captain Victor Wanyama and coach Stanley Okumbi believe the result will be the turning point of Kenya’s future performances with the Football Kenya Federation having its eyes fixed on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“It was important for us to win that match because our confidence was at risk and also, it has been a long time since we won. I believe we played well and the win gave us a huge lift. This is a start of better things for the national team I believe,” Wanyama told Capital Sport as he walked off the pitch having played a key role in the team’s result.
Okumbi admitted the players’ confidence had began to slump following a spate of poor results and continued criticism from fans and the media.
The tactician was not pleased with the lack of support he had received prior to the Congo match but believes the team can restore confidence in their abilities with their latest result.
“Even in the World Cup, there is always one winner. You find that the team did not receive so much support from the fans and sometimes it was as if they want me to lose. But that should not be the case. In other countries, whether the team wins or loses they have the support but here we criticize too much,” Okumbi offered.
“I believe we can build on from this. There are so many positives and hopefully we can replicate the same kind of performance. Many people are saying that it was meaningless to win but I say no, a win is a win. This will make a huge impact on our FIFA rankings,” Okumbi added.
The coach handed first team debuts to Gor Mahia youngster Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma as well as Spanish based Ismail Athuman Gonzalez and he was full of praise of their performances.
Ouma had a good performance on the left side of Kenya’s defense and very little permeated from his end. Gonzalez on the other hand played 55 minutes and save for the controversial penalty involving him and a few late tackles, he had an otherwise better afternoon.
Gonzalez realized one of his dreams, partnering with Wanyama in the Stars midfield and in a short response to Capital Sport, he termed his debut as; “Good, good. I enjoyed.”
Wanyama as well enjoyed playing alongside him and he has tipped him to perform even better in future.
“He is a great player and we had good chemistry with him. I think we can perform better in future because this was his first match for the national team. I was pleased as well with ‘Marcelo’, he had a good game and showed so much maturity despite his age,” the skipper noted.
Kenya’s next assignment will be against Zambia in Lusaka in September and Stars will seek to finish up their campaign on a high.
They can finish second if they beat the Chipolopolo at their own backyard and AFCON bound Guinea Bissau returns the favor by beating Congo away in Brazzaville.
Defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino, who plies his trade in Zambia with Zesco United believes the team can win that match if they perform in the same scale or even better as they did against Congo.