CAIRO, Egypt, Apr 13 – They were best of friends during their time with English Premier League side Southampton FC and still remain in close contact though they moved separate ways with Mane in Liverpool and Wanyama in London.
But, the two will put friendship aside when they clash in the 2019 African Cup of Nations in July in Cairo with Kenya having been pooled with Senegal and both players being captains of their respective teams.
“It will be very interesting because we have been friends for a long time and it will be great playing against each other in the national team for the first time. I teased him a bit after the draw and told him we are ready for them,” Wanyama told Capital Sport.
He added; “He knows it will be tough and I know as well it will not be easy because Senegal is a very good team and Mane himself is a phenomenal player. But we will square it out on the pitch.”
The skipper who has just returned to form with his club Tottenham Hotspur including scoring on his third start of the season against Huddersfield on Saturday believes if Kenya work well, they can get off the groups and into the knockout round.
“It is a tough group yes, but one that we can manage well. I believe as a team we have grown and we are better than we were in yester years. We will take game at a time and give our best. Algeria is also a very strong team and Tanzania as well so there is no easy match,” the midfielder added.
Stars start their campaign against Algeria on June 23, then play Tanzania four days later and finish off the group stage matches with the Mane v Wanyama duel on July 1.
Meanwhile, Harambee Stars players believe they have the ability to get off the group though they admit it will not come on a silver platter.
Forward Michael Olunga who played a starring role in the qualification process believes they have the ability to go past the group stages.
“I would look at it as a fair draw because these are teams we can compete with. We have a very good team and if we do our homework well, we have what it takes to progress,” said Olunga who is currently firing from all cylinders for his Japanese club Kashiwa Reysol.
His sentiments were echoed by vice captain Musa Mohammed who said;
“Let no one underrate us because this is not the same Kenya from four, five years ago. We have grown, we have matured and as a team we are now playing better. We can achieve the target if we work hard. The secret is preparing well and giving 100pc in all the games,” stated the Zambia based defender.
Stars are making it into their first ever Cup of Nations since 2004.