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Harambee Stars shift focus to CHAN qualifiers

Harambee Stars players line up before their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) match against Algeria at the June 30 Stadium in Cairo on June 23, 2019.

CAIRO, Egypt, Jul 3 – Harambee Stars jet back home from Cairo early Thursday morning and while most of the foreign based players take off their boots and jerseys for rest and recovery, there will be little time to rest for the local based crew and the technical bench.

Stars are scheduled to play Tanzania in the first round of the 2020 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers at the end of the month, and the team will only have a few days of rest before resuming training.

Kenya will play the Taifa Stars of Tanzania in the first round of qualification on July 27 in Dar es Salaam before hosing the return leg tie a week later in Nairobi. This will be a re-make of their Africa Cup of Nations tie in Cairo where Stars won 3-2.

Head coach Sebastien Migne had already picked out a squad of local based players for the CHAN qualifiers before travelling to Cairo and he is expected to get back to work with them at the beginning of the new week.

Harambee Stars head coach Sebastien Migne gives instructions to the players during a training session in Cairo on June 26, 2019.

In his AFCON squad, the players he will need to give maximum rest will be right-back Philemon Otieno and defensive midfielder Dennis Odhiambo who played the most number of minutes at AFCON.

Sofapaka forward John Avire and Bernard Ochieng were limited to substitute appearances while Joash Onyango, Paul Were and John Oyemba were unused substitutes.

Creative midfielder Francis Kahata and keeper Faruk Shikalo who are both headed to the Tanzanian Premier League with Simba and Yanga respectively might play if their contracts will not have been activated by then.

Meanwhile, Migne says the team leaves Cairo proud despite failing to achieve their primary target of reaching the last 16.

“It will be interesting for the future, but we can’t sleep. We have to learn immediately. We committed some fault which we can avoid for the future for example the penalties. There is nothing more important than the experience,” Migne said.

Harambee Stars utility Eric Ouma vies for the ball with Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr during their Africa Cup of Nations Group C match in Cairo on July 1, 2019. PHOTO/CAF

“We played against top teams. Senegal has qualified for every AFCON and were in the last World Cup as well. We played against Sadio Mane who was one of the best players in Europe last season. We cannot reduce the gap in one day. We have to work hard,” Migne said.

“I think the players learnt a lot because it was the first time for all of them to be in this kind of tournament and have these kinds of training sessions,” the tactician noted.

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Meanwhile, Football Kenya Federation boss Nick Mwendwa says he is proud of the players and the kind of investment the Federation made on their participation in Cairo and believes it has laid a foundation for a more frequent appearance at Africa’s elite football competition.

“We prepared the team, worked very hard and I can say the team has done well. There are a few things we didn’t like but we are in a good path. We have set up a team, there is a collaboration with government,”

“Now we have to go and try qualify for CHAN, we have to qualify for 2021 and I can tell you that we will be back at AFCON,” declared Mwendwa.

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