NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 – Harambee Stars skipper Victor Wanyama admits losing out on an opportunity to play at the African Cup of Nations in January this year still hurts the team as they feel they had an opportunity to return to Africa’s premier tournament but blew it away.
Stars finished bottom of Group E with minnows Guinea Bissau making it into the biennial championship, more so after back to back home and away wins over Kenya.
“Last time we saw the underdogs managing to go through a tough group and make it to the AFCON and when we look back, we feel so bad we didn’t make it and that motivates us to go on and try push ourselves to make sure we qualify for 2019,” Wanyama told Capital Sport.
The imposing Tottenham Hotspur midfielder feels a personal responsibility to steer the team to the continental championship with the last time Kenya participated being in 2004 when he was still an upcoming teenager.
“It has been a long time for sure and I think we need to work hard as a team to get there. We know how prestigious it is for a player to represent a country at AFCON and personally as a captain I would like to achieve that,” Wanyama, beaming in confidence said.
The 25-year old is upbeat that head coach Stanley Okumbi has gathered together a great team and having built it over the past one year, he feels it is now their chance to show what they can do on the big stage.
Okumbi has led the team to a streak of 10 unbeaten matches, but most of those have come in friendly matches.
“The future is bright. We have been doing well over the past few matches and now we have to show what we were building is a real thing. Hopefully Saturday we start with positive results and take our first step towards qualifying for AFCON,” added the captain.
On missing three key players, Wanyama says; “We are a bit unlucky missing them but I think the players who have been chosen will do their best and hopefully we come back with victory from Sierra Leone.”
Wanyama’s sentiments are shared by his deputy David Owino who says they have a decent chance to qualify for the Cup of Nations especially with most of the senior players seeing this as the most ideal time.
“We have tried and failed before. We have learnt the lessons and now we need to start well. We have analyzed the situation and our group; we know we need to play well and ensure that we win all our home games and fight for at least a point away,” Owino who turns out for Zambian top tier side Zesco United said.