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Kimanzi gives 8/10 rating to CECAFA squad

Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi in deep thought during a training session at the Lugogo Arena in Kampala, Uganda on December 9, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 23 – Despite suffering one of the biggest defeats in recent times for the national team, Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi says he was pleased overall with the performance of his squad at the tourney where Stars finished third.

Kimanzi’s charges won all its group stage matches, but were handed a shock 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Eritrea before bouncing back with a 2-1 win over Tanzania to clinch bronze.

“To be honest, with the amount of time we had to prepare, I give them eight out of 10. Look at what they did in the group stages; three matches three wins. Knockout stage was a disappointment but look at what they did in the third and fourth. They played good football and won comfortably. It shows development,” the tactician told Capital Sport.

“The most important thing is that you learn from the tournament. The mentality, the pressure of success with young players and also with new players that you have been admiring and waiting to give them an opportunity. This was also something for development,” Kimanzi further added.

Harambee Stars players line up before their CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup semi-final against Eritrea at the Lugogo Arena on December 17, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Kimanzi now says the players have thrown him a bigger challenge when he sets out to build a group for next year’s 2021 African Cup of Nations and 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

“We are moving somewhere and it’s a huge question they have thrown to me in terms of ‘I am available even for the bigger selections and maybe I can challenge the bigger guys’. It’s a different stage because it is a stage of men and it will be interesting to see how they fare,” the tactician offered.

Among the plauers who proved their worth in the tournament include Ulinzi Stars striker Oscar Wamalwa who was the tournament top scorer with three goals and two assists and Kimanzi has openly stated his admiration for the lanky former Bidco United man.

Wamalwa has shown that his form at the championship was no mere fluke as he scored twice playing for Ulinzi Stars in their 4-0 win over Zoo Kericho in a Kenyan Premier League match on Sunday.

Harambee Stars forward Oscar Wamalwa celebrates his goal against Zanzibar during their CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup Group B match at the Lugogo Complex in Kampala, Uganda on December 14, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“I think I am really impressed with him and he is the kind of guy who can help us solve our problems upfront. We have also been wondering who can help Olunbga (Michael) or Jesse (Were) and now he has thrown himself at us,” he said.

Adding; “I would love to see him developing more at the club level and hopefully they can continue giving him more opportunities and good coaching. He is someone that can really help us next year.”

Another player who has impressed the tactician is Sweden-based midfielder Antony Wambani.

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The former Bandari man has not had much playing time in Sweden and the tactician gave him a chance to prove his worth.

“I called him up just one month after the league in Sweden ended and for me that was a great sacrifice because he was with his family enjoying his rest and he agreed to come. He has shown that he can fight with men and though we don’t have a deficiency in that area, he has given us a challenge that he can come and compete,” Kimanzi noted.

The tactician now hopes the players can keep their form at club level and he believes the squad depth will be immense heading into the new year.

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