Sunday, March 24, 2013

Group F still open at halfway stage

PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI Kenya's national football team's Algerian coach Adel Amrouche looks on during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria on March 23, 2013 in Calabar. The match ended in a 1 - 1 draw.

PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI Kenya's national football team's Algerian coach Adel Amrouche looks on during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria on March 23, 2013 in Calabar. The match ended in a 1 - 1 draw.  AFP

By DAVID KWALIMWA [email protected]

Harambee Stars are still placed bottom of Group F in the ongoing World Cup qualifiers despite the surprise 1-1 draw registered away to Nigeria on Saturday.

That result, coupled with a solitary goal win by Malawi over hosts Namibia in Windhoek, means that Kenya are placed last in the Group after scooping two points from three games.

At the halfway stage of the qualifiers, Nigeria and Malawi are joint top of the group standings three points above Kenya, while Nambia are third with three points.

Only the top placed teams in the 10 African qualifying groups will proceed to the next phase, which will involve a play-off, that determines which five nations represent the continent at the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

Kenya’s three remaining fixtures are at home to Nigeria and Namibia, plus away to bogey side Malawi.

Harambee Stars need maximum points from this three engagements to stand a chance of topping Group F.

Judging from the proceedings in Calabar, the task ahead is difficult but not impossible.

The match that marked coach Adel Amrouche’s debut at the dugout, Kenya against all odds, held their nerve against the reigning African champions and former Olympic gold medal winners.

Scored winning goal

So tight were the proceedings that the Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi had to replace his striking duo that included Sunday Mba who scored the winning goal at this year’s African Cup of Nations and former Inter Milan and Newcastle United attacker Obafemi Martins.

In midfield, the duo of Victor Wanyama and Belgium-based midfielder Johanna Omollo held their nerve for the entire game and restricted the English-based duo of John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses at bay.

CSKA Moscow forward Ahmed Musa, who had promised to heap misery on the Kenyans before the duel, came on as a second half substitute but barely managed a shot on target.

Upfront, captain Dennis Oliech provided the killer pass that forced a Nigerian defender to bring down Gateri and in the process provide that perfect free kick for Francis Kahata. Oliech was at it again in the final 10 minutes, as his through ball had Kahata on goal but the Thika United fluffed his chance with only Vincent Enyeama to beat.

All the 14 gladiators deserve praise for repaying the shabby reception accorded to the team upon arrival in Lagos and giving Kenya the bragging rights over the west African nation for the first time in history. And finally coach Adel Amrouche deserves the man of the match award.

The Belgian mastermind, appointed only last month delivered on his debut. “I am here to place Kenya rightfully on the football match and improve the lives of the players.” Amrouche said during his unveiling.

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