The journey to make another continental appearance for Kenya in the space of six months starts this weekend on Sunday 28 when Harambee Stars travel to Tanzania to take on their regional counterparts in the first-leg of the two nations CHAN 2020 first-round qualifier.
Stars couldn’t have asked for a more difficult start, especially playing away to their regional rivals and the team’s captain, Dennis Odhiambo believes Taifa Stars have all the advantage going into this game not only because of playing at home, but also because a huge chunk of the players in the squad are not new to playing at such a level.
Tanzania, who graced this year’s Nations Cup alongside Kenya after a 39 year hiatus, have named 10 players who featured for the country in Egypt in their provisional squad for Sunday’s game and all 10 are more than likely to make the cut for the game.
It is this reason that has Odhiambo, who himself played at the AFCON, to conclude that Kenya will be up for a difficult task in Dar Es Salaam even though Sebastien Migne’s men have received the most success in this fixture in recent years including in Egypt.
“Tanzania most definitely have the advantage because most of the players they had at the AFCON were local based players and that makes them eligible to play in the CHAN,” the Sofapaka midfielder, who featured in two of Kenya’s three group games in Egypt told Soka.
“They are more experienced than us that is for sure and they will also be looking to avenge the loss to us in Cairo. But again this is football and we have prepared well.”
Migne has been restricted to naming only five local based players from the nine he had with him in Egypt, with his squad consisting of players making the grade up from the junior teams and who are yet to earn a senior national cap.
“There is a big gap in quality from the team we had in Egypt,” Odhiambo continued, “But the quality is there even if most of the players in the team will be aiming to win their first senior team caps.
“As a country we have plenty of talent locally and I am proud to be part of this group. I have seen the desire in training. The players have worked extra hard to get themselves ready because as you know it’s the off-season and the fitness levels had gone down a bit.”
A compact game based on solid defending from each and every player on the pitch is Migne’s style of play just as in the away games in Ethiopia and Ghana in the AFCON qualifiers.
A result like the 0-0 draw in Bahir Dar would be a huge advantage for Kenya before the return-leg one week later in Nairobi where the team will be expected to seal their passage to the second and final round of the qualifiers.