Battered Harambee Stars, Tanzania seek AFCON revival


Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Group C - Algeria v Kenya - 30 ...
Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Group C - Algeria v Kenya - 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - June 23, 2019 Kenya players huddle at the end of the match REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

In Summary

  • Some have called it an East African derby, others the mother of all football battles, while for the coaches and players who will be directly involved, it’s just another football game
  • Yes, the temperature is literally high in Cairo hitting the 39°C mark, and so is in the mood in both teams’ camps where the heat is being felt
Isaac Swila in Cairo, Egypt

Some have called it an East African derby, others the mother of all football battles, while for the coaches and players who will be directly involved, it’s just another football game.

Yes, the temperature is literally high in Cairo hitting the 39°C mark, and so is in the mood in both teams’ camps where the heat is being felt.

You see, Kenya is making an appearance at the continental showpiece for the very first time in 15 years while for Tanzania’s Taifa Stars this show comes after 39 years in the cold.

That is not all though. These two teams both lost their opening matches with identical 2-0 defeats, Kenya falling to Algeria as the Taifa Stars surrendered to the might of Teranga Lions.

The twin defeats have created so much heat in both teams camps as they scratch their heads, tinker with formations, do video reviews and the coaches do pep talks, all aimed at ensuring the mood and team spirit is lifted ahead of tomorrow’s mighty war.

Algeria Waterloo

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Group C - Algeria v Kenya - 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - June 23, 2019 Algeria's Adlene Guedioura in action with Kenya's Michael Olunga REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The stage of this battle will be the magnificent 30 June Stadium, a 30,000seater facility built in 1968 by the Egyptian Air Defense Forces and which has been immaculately maintained over the years, giving it a brand new look.

This facility was the venue of the pre-match press conference ritual Wednesday where Kenya’s coach Sebastian Migne, under fire back home in Kenya for team selection and tactics in the 2-0 meltdown to Algeria, was accompanied by his lead striker Michael Olunga, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder to field questions from the world press.

Olunga who struggled to impose himself in the game against the pacy Desert Foxes, the 4-2-3-1 formation deployed hindering the supply of the balls as the midfield collapsed, put up a brave face, asking his team mates to forget the Algeria waterloo and instead focus on taming Kenya’s neighbours Tanzania tomorrow.

“We have to accept that Algeria had better quality than us and of course it was frustrating when you cannot get the attempts on goal but it’s more of a team work and I cannot blame any individual because we’re here to participate as a team and no player is more important than the other,” he said in a bid to thaw the tempers that had greeted their capitulation on Monday, bedecked by a lousy first half.

“So I believe that we learnt from our first game and we’re going to improve come the second game against Tanzania tomorrow (Thursday). Every game is important, we’re taking it at time.

Flower Girls 

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Group C - Senegal v Tanzania - 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - June 23, 2019 Tanzania's Himid Mao, David Mwantika, Mudathiri Yahya and team mates look dejected after Senegal's Krepin Diatta scores their second goal REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

“Tanzania is our neighbour and it promises to be a tough game because we know our opponents, they know us, both of us lost the first game but we look at the positives .

“We have three points to play for and we’re going to give our best,” Olunga who has had a whirlwind tour of the world docking in Sweden, China and now Japan since he made the breakthrough at Gor Mahia in a colourful KPL season in 2015 that saw him bag the league title unbeaten, said.

For his part, Frenchman Migne expects the Tanzanian team not to be flower girls as they have earned their place to be here.

“It will not be the same opener with all the respect for Tanzania. It will be a physical game because they showed that against Senegal where they picked four yellow cards,” he said, adding: “We were not there in the first half against Algeria so we need to be there… we were absent for 15 years(from Afcon) so we cannot miss this. We need to be alive to feel all the moment, all the situation, to be here.”

‘We’re kind of brothers’ 

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Group C - Senegal v Tanzania - 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - June 23, 2019 Tanzania coach Emmanuel Amunike REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Tanzania coach Emmanuel Amunike though cognizant of the age-old rivalry between the two sides has hailed Harambee Stars for their quality but is equally expecting an explosive contest.

He reckoned:“Tomorrow we have a very important match against Kenya. We’re kind of brothers, two teams coming from East Africa. In this there is a lot at stake, we want to win to have the possibility to make it to the next round but of course it gonna not be easy.

“The Kenyan team is also a very good side regardless of how they lost the first game to Algeria and they have my respect for what they have done making it to the Afcon after some years,” he concluded.

For Migne, there are no fresh injury concerns but Joash Onyango will again play no role as he is not ready yet.

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