Football Football

Kenya banks on early goals in Sudan return

Harambee Stars U23 head coach Francis Kimanzi feeds instructions to his players during a training session at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on March 25, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 25 – The Harambee Stars Under-23 team faces a mountainous task on Tuesday evening in their quest to earn a place in next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, when they host Sudan in the return leg of their penultimate qualification tie.

Stars go into the return fixture needing a win of three clear goals to go through to the next round having lost the first leg 2-0 in Khartoum last Friday, and the team says only early goals will put them firmly in contention.

“We were unlucky in the first leg because even though we were playing away from home, we created the most scoring chances but we could not score. We are confident of turning things around in the return leg,” Skipper Mike Kibwage said.

He added; “Everyone in camp is psyched up for that game. We will go fully offensive and hope to get an early goal like we did against Mauritius. We have the same quality and I believe we can achieve that.”

Kibwage is stepping in to the skipper’s boots in the absence of regular Joseph ‘Crouch’ Okumu who was not released by his club Royal Monarchs and the KCB man has vowed to lead his charges to victory on home soil.

“It is a tough task but we are sure we can do it. Everyone is determined,” the former AFC man added.

Harambee Stars U23 captain Mike Kibwage during a training session at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on March 25, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Head coach Francis Kimanzi is also confident the team has what it takes to progress to the final qualification round where a meeting between either Nigeria or Libya awaits.

“If we can play better offensively and create more opportunities, we will have a good chance. If we can get the first goal early, then we can run the game from there. I am confident enough to say there is a possibility,” the tactician stated.

Kimanzi’s pre-match plans have been slowed down with injuries sustained by strikers John Avire and Jaffary Owiti who trained separately from the rest of the pack on Monday, with their involvement in Tuesday evening’s tie being highly doubtful.

“We will see about them, there is no panic but for sure you can never replace an individual because of the qualities they bring in. We will tell assess them with the medical team and then make a decision on whether to field them or not,” Kimanzi offered.

Harambee Stars U23 striker Piston Mutamba watches on as teammate James Mazembe dribbles during a training session at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on March 25, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

In their place, Kimanzi has already called in winger James Kinyanjui from Mathare United while forward Piston Mutamba went straight into camp after arriving from Ghana with the senior team.

Kimanzi explained that Mutamba was part of the team’s plan from the word go but he had to be released to go to Ghana with the senior team after Michael Olunga’s injury.

The availability of the two attacking players will be a huge asset to Kimanzi and his squad especially with the number of goals required to turn the fixture around.