NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 25 – Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma says he is ready to challenge defending champions Nigeria and giants South Africa in Pool B when they clash with the continent’s best at next month’s African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Ghana.
Starlets have been placed in what is seen as the group of death as they play holders Nigeria, 2016 fourth placed finishers South Africa and Zambia.
“We are in a tighter group, but everything is possible. We have played against all those teams and I believe we can go in there and challenge. Our aim is to improve from 2016 where we failed to pick a point. This time, we have to get at least one win,” the tactician told Capital Sport.
Starlets finished bottom of Group B at their AWCON debut in Cameroon in 2016 losing to Ghana and Mali in identical 3-1 scores before slumping to a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Nigeria.
The team played against South Africa in 2015 in the qualifiers of the Rio Olympics losing 2-0 on aggregate after identical 1-0 losses home and away.
Last year, they played Zambia’s Shepolopolo in the COSAFA Championship losing 4-2 on post-match penalties in the third and fourth play-off after a 1-1 draw in regulation time in a game they led 1-0 until the 72nd minute.
Ouma believes that they can challenge to at least finish in second position and affirms they head back to the AWCON as a more experienced team.
“In 2016, we were a bit naïve because it was the first time for the players and even for me as a coach. We got a feel of the texture of football at such kind of a level and now we have the experience. The competition is intense and I feel if we prepare well, we will be ready for it,” further stated the tactician.
“Every game is important for us and this time, we will try to get our strategy and tactics right,” he added.
Ouma has already named a 32-man squad which gets into camp on Monday and are expected to play two friendly games, one against neighbors Uganda before they travel to Ghana on November 14.
Among the 32 Ouma has named in his provisional squad include USA based striker Marjolene Nekesa. He joins Esse Akida as the other foreign based player in kenya’s squad, the first time the country has players coming in from abroad.
Corazone Aquino, Mary Kinuthia, Christine Nafula and Terry Engesha also have under their wings experience playing abroad with the last three having just returned from a three-month stay in Sweden.
Ouma says having players with abroad experience will be priceless for the team as they seek a better performance at the biennial championship.
“The teams we played in Cameroon last time out had so many players from out of their countries and the experience was visible. Having these girls in the team is positive because it brings another different aspect of the game because of the insight of playing top level football,” Ouma said.
“The experience is far much better and you have players who can control the tempo of the game at crunch times and also bring leadership into the team,” further stated the tactician.
Meanwhile, Ouma is worried with the three-month break the unified Women’s Premier League took saying it might affect the tempo and fitness of the players, but remains optimistic that with good training and at least one friendly match, they will be ready.
Goalkeepers: Pauline Atieno (Makolanders), Maureen Shimuli (Wadadia), Annette Kundu (Eldoret Falcons), Monica Karambu (Thika Queens), Diana Tembesi (Wiyeta Girls)
Defenders: Lilian Adera (Vihiga Queens), Wendy Achieng (Spedag), Dorcas Shikobe (Oserian), Phelistus Kadari (Vihiga Queens), Wincate Kaari (Thika Queens), Elizabeth Ambogo (Spedag), Maureen Khakasa (Trans Nzoia Falcons), Juliet Auma (Thika Queens), Vivian Nasaka (Vihiga Queens)
Midfielders: Jentrix Shikangwa (Wiyeta Girls), Mary Kinuthia (Gaspo Youth), Sheril Angachi (Gaspo Youth), Ruth Ingosi (Eldoret Falcons), Corazone Aquino (Vihiga Queens), Elizabeth Wambui (Gaspo Youth), Martha Amunyolete (Trans Nzoia Falcons), Christine Nafula (Gaspo Youth), Cynthia Shilwatso (Vihiga Queens), Mercy Achieng (Thika Queens), Cheris Avilia (Spedag)
Forwards: Neddy Atieno (Makolanders), Esse Akida (Ramat Hasharon), Mwanahalima Adam (Thika Queens), Janet Bundi (Eldoret Falcons), Terry Engesha (Vihiga Queens), Phoebe Oketch (Vihiga Queens), Marjolene Nekesa (USA)