Harambee Stars boss Stanley Okumbi issues battle cry

Wednesday March 16 2016

Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi (left) and player Anthony  Kimani during training at the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani on March 15, 2016. Kenya face Guinea Bissau away in an Afcon qualifier on March 23, 2016. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi (left) and player Anthony Kimani during training at the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani on March 15, 2016. Kenya face Guinea Bissau away in an Afcon qualifier on March 23, 2016. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ISAAC SWILA
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Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi is under no illusions what he must do to resuscitate Kenya’s bleak prospects of featuring at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

Kenya play Guinea Bissau in their next qualifier on Wednesday away before hosting them in the return leg in Nairobi on March 27.

The youthful Okumbi, who was appointed as Stars coach last month taking over the mantle from Scotsman Bobby Williamson, said they simply needed to get maximum points out of the remaining four fixtures if they were to achieve the dream of featuring at the biennial continental showpiece in Gabon next year.

Okumbi was speaking at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani where he took his charges through their paces in a marathon three-hour workout.

Fitness coach, Mike Igendia, was at hand to assess the players’ physical conditions while assistant coach Musa Otieno supervised the running drills.

Okumbi said: “The fitness levels are impressive and the players are ready to play. I have watched the videos of Guinea (Bissau) and I know what to expect of them.”

The Stars coach added that the 26 players in camp will be whittled down to 11 who will be joined by nine foreign-based players who will   directly fly to Guinea.

“We have a chance (to quality for Afcon) and we just need to motivate the players. The quality in the team is not bad. We just need to win the four remaining matches,” he added.

Rugged Southampton midfielder, Victor Wanyama, who retains his captain’s armband under Okumbi, is currently serving a five-match suspension in the English Premier League. He is expected to lead Kenya in Bissau.

Fifteen teams will qualify to play in the African finals joining hosts Gabon.

Stars find themselves in a precarious position in group E where they’re placed third on one point and a negative one goal difference after two rounds of matches.

Congo and Zambia are joint top on four points each though the central Africans have a superior goal difference. Guinea Bissau are on one point.

Stars will fly out on Sunday for Bissau where they will face their hosts on March 23 at the 20,000-seater, Estadio 24 de Setembro.

The return leg will be held four days later on Sunday at Nyayo National Stadium.

Harambee Stars forward Jesse Were has meanwhile backed the team’s current set up to reinvigorate its qualification campaign. Speaking to Daily Nation Sport from his current base in Ndola with Zesco United on Wednesday, Were also underlined the importance of the back-to-back fixtures against Guinea Bissau.
“We badly need maximum points against Guinea Bissau in these (two) games to stand a chance of qualifying,” he said.